A former MassHealth employee who says she was fired for her Facebook posts about mask enforcement and comparisons to Nazi Germany has filed a lawsuit against the state agency.
Dennis Foley this week filed a lawsuit against MassHealth for wrongful termination and violating its First Amendment rights.
Foley wrote several posts in December in a private Facebook group for Milton residents. She criticized a proposal for neighbors to call the police if they saw no one else in the community wearing a face mask.
“Guess what the Nazis did in Germany,” Foley wrote in the group.
She later wrote in the comments, “How dare anyone try to take away my rights! I have the right not to wear a mask if I don’t want to. I have the right to gather with friends and family if I want to. If this is a problem for you or anyone else, report it to me!”
Her comments were anonymously reported to MassHealth, and Foley was subsequently suspended and eventually fired in January. She was MassHealth’s director of internal and external training and communications.
The Liberty Justice Center filed the lawsuit Thursday in Norfolk County Superior Court.
“I was fired from a job I loved for expressing my personal opinion on an important issue in my community,” Foley said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed. “I never thought this could happen in America. Working for the government shouldn’t mean forfeiting my rights.
“It’s scary that we are attacking each other over differences,” she said. “I stand for my rights in the hope that I can prevent others from being persecuted for expressing their views.”
Foley was placed on paid administrative leave on 21 December, and fired on 27 January.
“After an investigation, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services has determined that it no longer has confidence in your ability to perform your duties effectively,” Dan Tsai, assistant secretary for MassHealth, wrote to Foley in the termination letter.
The Liberty Justice Center is arguing that MassHealth officials violated Foley’s rights when the state terminated him for posting his personal opinion in a private Facebook group.
Jeff Jennings, an attorney at the Liberty Justice Center, said, “Mashealth is a government workplace, and government employees don’t surrender their First Amendment rights when they enter public service. Dennis shouldn’t have been fired, and we want his rights.” Will fight for it.
MassHealth did not respond to comment on Friday.