ORLANDO, Fla. – One day after Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Ninth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Monique Worrell, new leadership fired an employee who was out on maternity leave.
Keisha Mulfort was Worrell’s Chief of Staff. She worked until the day she gave birth.
Two days after giving birth she was hospitalized and has since been out on the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA.
Mulfort says Thursday she was blindsided. She was nursing her baby when there was a knock at her door.
“It’s unacceptable. I am on FMLA and y’all are coming here like I’m a criminal,” Mulfort said on cell phone video.
Her friend started recording Thursday when armed investigators with the state attorney’s office and armed deputies with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office showed up at her door.
“Y’all should have made arrangements that would have been the respectful thing to do. I am here with my 10-week-old daughter,” Mulfort said.
Mulfort says on Wednesday, the day Worrell was suspended, she got a call from the office’s newly-appointed Chief Assistant Ryan Williams, requesting access to the office’s social media pages.
Williams unsuccessfully ran against Worrell in the 2020 election.
“I told Ryan that the social media passwords had been changed while I was out on FMLA,” Mulfort said.
Mulfort says she contacted an attorney who advised her he would communicate with the office’s general council and Williams.
“He said he called Ryan Williams’ cell phone and no one responded,” Mulford said.
During the encounter at the front door and the call with Williams, no one told her she had been fired, according to Mulfort.
“I had no clue what was going on,” Mulfort said.
When the investigators and deputies left, they left a letter behind saying she had been terminated effective Aug. 9 and needed to return her state-issued cell phone, iPad, laptop and other state property.
“I let them know we could have made these arrangements prior to you coming to my home with armed deputies. Period,” Mulfort said.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office released a statement saying the sheriff did not approve the deputies being there.
“The sheriff was not aware and did not approve of the standby request. Had it been brought to him, he would have rejected this request and left it in the hands of the state attorney’s office,” a spokesperson wrote in an email to News 6.
Mulfort says the whole situation was handled poorly.
“What I wanted was the rights that are guaranteed to any woman or any man who is out on FMLA,” she said.
Mulfort’s attorney sent a letter to the state attorney’s office.
“I must caution you that notwithstanding the recent changes in leadership in your office, your office’s FLMA obligations remain the same,” according to the letter.
Mulfort said she does not want her job back.
“And while I loved my job, I could not have done it under this administration. If this is how you treat your own employees, how will you treat the community?” Mulfort said.
A spokesperson with the state attorney’s office released a statement to News 6.
“It is common practice of the State Attorney’s Office to communicate a separation of employment in person,” according to the statement.
“In Ms. Mulfort’s case, attempts to communicate with her to notify her of her separation were unsuccessful. Therefore, it was necessary to notify her in person and also attempt to retrieve the office’s state-issued equipment. It is standard procedure for at least two investigators and a member of law enforcement to make in-person visits to employee’s homes for the safety and security of all involved. Unfortunately, Ms. Mulfort’s FMLA status at the time was not a legal bar to the termination process. The State Attorney’s Office followed its standard operating procedures to effectuate the separation process. The State Attorney thanks Ms. Mulfort for her public service.”
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