DeSantis fires Monique Worrell then fires pregnant staffer while on maternity leave

DeSantis fires Monique Worrell then fires pregnant staffer while on maternity leave
Within days of Gov. Ron DeSantis' suspension of Monique Worrell, an executive staff member on maternity leave at the State Attorney's Office was informed of her termination when investigators from the office, joined by law enforcement, paid an unexpected visit to her house.

(Pictured Above: Monique Worrell)

Keisha Mulfort, former chief of staff for the State Attorney's Office and Worrell, took maternity leave on May 30, the same day her daughter was born. According to the Sentinel, she has spent time in the hospital due to birth-related problems.

Her absence, according to her lawyer Fritz Scheller, is in accordance with the Family and Medical absence Act (FMLA), a federal legislation that grants some employees job-protected leave for medical reasons such as pregnancy or birth. Scheller claims that her firing, as well as the demands made to her following Worrell's suspension, may have violated federal labor laws.

DeSantis removed Mulfort's employer, Worrell, from office on Wednesday morning and replaced him with Orange County judge Andrew Bain. The same morning, Bain's newly hired chief assistant, Ryan Williams — who ran unsuccessfully against Worrell in 2020 — contacted Mulfort "from another employee's private cellphone," according to a letter of legal representation from Scheller to the State Attorney's Office.

(Pictured Above: Keisha Mulfort)

According to the letter, Williams requested that Mulfort "provide access" and "change administrative profiles on the office's social media pages."

"The demand was perplexing," according to the letter. "As Ms. Mulfort informed [Williams], your office already had the passwords, which had been changed during her leave."

Another State Attorney's Office employee then "demanded that [Mulfort] respond to Williams" by 9 a.m. on Thursday, according to Scheller.

Mulfort contacted Scheller on Wednesday night and asked him to serve as a go-between for her and the State Attorney's Office. He agreed to take her on as a volunteer.

The next morning, Scheller said he wrote the letter to the State Attorney's Office, informing them that he was representing Mulfort and stating that the demands appear to violate Mulfort's federally protected rights.

"Ms. Mulfort is willing to assist your office with any requests that do not violate her rights under the FLMA," the attorney's letter stated, later adding, "While I expect that we can easily resolve this matter, I caution you that notwithstanding the recent changes in leadership in your office, your office's FLMA obligations remain the same."

Scheller stated that, in addition to mailing the letter, he called the office's general counsel and Williams but received no response. Scheller stated that he wanted to meet with the State Attorney's Office to discuss the problem.

Multiple State Attorney's Office staff, including sworn investigators and two Orange County officers, went to Mulfort's house on Thursday afternoon, she told the Sentinel. When they knocked on her front door, she was upstairs nursing her daughter.

Mulfort stated that State Attorney's Office personnel have once again asked authorization to update administrative profiles on the public office's social media pages.

During the discussion, Mulfort was given a letter in which she was informed that her job with the State Attorney's Office will be terminated effective Wednesday. Mulfort stated that this is how she learned she had been dismissed.

The letter also requested that she return a cellphone, an iPad, building and parking lot access cards, and a Toyota Camry, as well as "[r]elinquish 'administrator' rights to the office's social media accounts."

"There are no justifications for what they did... "I'm being treated like a criminal, despite the fact that I've served this community," she added. "How should I feel... and what message is that sending?"

Orange County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Michelle Guido acknowledged in a statement that deputies accompanied "two sworn law enforcement officers who are investigators at the State Attorney's Office."

"The deputies were requested to stand by solely to record the interaction on the body worn camera," Guido explained. "While it is not uncommon for deputies to provide standby services, this should have been handled exclusively by sworn investigators from the State Attorney's Office."

"The Sheriff was unaware of and did not approve the standby request," the statement added. "Had this request been brought to him, he would have rejected it and left it in the hands of the State Attorney's Office."

A request for comment from the State Attorney's Office was not returned.

Scheller described the incident as "highly disturbing" and stated that he intends to pursue all legal remedies.

"To paraphrase philosopher Hannah Arendt, the cruel actions of DeSantis' minions in the State Attorney's office demonstrate that the greatest evil is not necessarily perpetuated by leaders who bear the stench of autocracy, but rather by evil committed by nobody, that is, by human beings who abandon their humanity at the altar of ambition," Scheller wrote in an email.

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