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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Court Upholds Firing Over Officer-Inmate Coupling

(CN) - A prison in Massachusetts was justified in firing a female corrections officer for having a relationship with a former inmate, the 1st Circuit ruled.

Melissa Poirier sued for wrongful termination after the Massachusetts Department of Correction fired her for violating the department's rule against relationships with current or former inmates.

Poirier told her supervisors that she would have contact with Dennis Novicki, and the department did not object. Three months later, she asked for permission for Novicki to move in with her. That permission was denied, and she was fired one month later.

Poirier asserted the due process right of intimate association, but the trial court dismissed her claim.

Judge Stahl of the Boston-based federal appeals court upheld the ruling, stating that Poirier did not make a specific claim for the type of relationship she sought to defend.

"Poirier, as the plaintiff, has the responsibility to identify the right she seeks to vindicate," Stahl wrote.

If Poirier is seeking the right to live with a man without being married, that relationship cannot be held up by the court, the judge ruled.

"The unmarried cohabitation of adults does not fall under any of the Supreme Court's bright-line categories for fundamental rights in this area," Stahl wrote.

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