In January 2021, during the Coronavirus pandemic, Denise Foley, the Director of Internal and External Training and Communication, was terminated from her position at MassHealth after she used her personal Facebook account to criticize the practice, and encouragement, of turning in one’s neighbor for not complying with local mask ordinances.
Foley’s job duties were not related to masks or messaging around COVID-19, and she had, in fact, received glowing job reviews after work was made remote due to the pandemic. She was even described as taking the change “in stride.” Yet, despite her outstanding work, Foley was terminated for engaging in political speech. Speech that has “everything to do with the very core of the First Amendment.” Foley was not even able to read the official complaint used by MassHealth as evidence of wrongdoing.
“Denise Foley, like every other American, has a right to voice her opinion on civic issues. And in this case, she did so in her personal capacity, in a private group online, and it had no bearing on her job or her role with MassHealth,” said Jeff Jennings, an attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “MassHealth is a government workplace, and government employees don’t surrender their First Amendment rights when they enter public service. Denise should not have been fired, and we will fight vigorously for her rights.”
The Liberty Justice Center is working together on this case with private attorneys for Foley, who previously sent a letter to the MassHealth demanding that they reinstate her. The agency failed to comply, and the two legal groups have filed her lawsuit Foley v. MassHealth.