Nancy M. Markey served as HR director for Westerly, Rhode Island, at a time when fears about the pandemic in March 2020 prompted workers to ask the town to allow them to work from home, for the town hall to be sanitized, and to limit public access to the building.
Markey noted in her federal lawsuit filed Dec. 22, 2020, that town manager J. Mark Rooney fired her after she told him she would report alleged violations of COVID-19 procedures. One of the violations noted in the suit is that Rooney allegedly did not quarantine after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and ordered Markey not to mention to anyone that he got tested.
The violations also pertain to federal and state family medical leave protections, the suit notes. Rooney and town attorney William J. Conley Jr. did not provide comment to the publication.
The town further retaliated against Markey when it tried and failed to challenge her application for unemployment benefits with the director of the Rhode Island Labor and Training Department ruling in her favor, according to the suit. “The director of the Rhode Island Labor and Training Department issued a decision that [Markey] was entitled to unemployment benefits because the investigation conducted by [the department] failed to show evidence of intentional wrongdoing” by Markey, the suit reads.
“The [hearing officer] further found that the alleged insubordination was centered on disagreement over the handling of COVID-19 protocols that eventually led to her termination, which did not constitute misconduct in connection with the workplace," the lawsuit also notes.