Former House employee’s COVID-related lawsuit partially dismissed


  

A former legislative employee’s lawsuit against the House and several employees alleging he was fired after requesting a mask mandate was partially dismissed earlier this month. 

In his June 2 order, Judge Douglas Harpool dismissed Tad Mayfield’s whistleblower claim as he did not disclose “something previously unknown” when he requested the legislature implement a mandatory mask policy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Mayfield sued the House, the former speaker, and several employees in March, alleging he was terminated from his job as a legislative specialist after he repeatedly expressed his concerns about a lack of a mask mandate in the Capitol. After he sent an email to leadership in both chambers about his concerns, Mayfield was asked to resign for alleged poor performance. When he declined to do so, he was terminated. 

Mayfield alleged he was retaliated against for exercising his First Amendment rights.

Harpool denied a motion to dismiss Mayfield’s First Amendment retaliation claim but did toss his whistleblower claim, noting his emails referenced CDC guidelines and information from Gov. Mike Parson’s executive orders. 

“[T]here is no indication or reason to believe that the House of Representatives would not have otherwise been aware of such information, or public information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in general,” the order said. 

However, the judge said Mayfield “sufficiently alleged that he spoke as a private citizen on a matter of public concern, rather than pursuant to his job duties” in allowing the First Amendment retaliation complaint to continue. 

The case is in the Western District of Missouri. A House spokesperson previously told The Missouri Times the lower chamber spent $8,000 over a six-month period on face coverings for legislators and staff members. Regular updates with instructions for administrative and caucus staff to social distance and wear masks were also sent.  

Representatives struck down a resolution at the start of session mandating all members follow recommendations from the CDC and Department of Health and Senior Services during a state of emergency related to a communicable disease. 

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