A former University of Minnesota diversity, equity and inclusion manager is suing the school after it fired her for a social media post that showed her standing in front of an Israeli flag with swastikas painted on it.

In a lawsuit served last week, Mashal Sherzad accuses the university of violating her First Amendment right to free speech, discrimination and other claims. She asks to have her job reinstated and receive more than $75,000 in damages.

Sherzad began working at the end of October as a program manager for diversity, equity and inclusion at the university's School of Public Health. In December, she attended a pro-Palestinian protest in Barcelona, Spain, and posted photos from it, including one of her standing in front of the flag.

In a news conference Friday, Sherzad said the flag belonged to someone else and, "I cannot be responsible for somebody else's intellectual property."

The lawsuit said she "posted the photographs on her private Instagram account, but unbeknownst to her, they were automatically re-posted on her Facebook account."

U spokesman Jake Ricker said the university doesn't typically comment on active lawsuits.

In a January letter, School of Public Health Dean Melinda Pettigrew told Sherzad she respects employees' rights "to comment on matters of public concern" but "your conduct directly undermines your credibility in this role."

"I find that continuing your employment would create a real risk of significant disruption to School and University activities," Pettigrew wrote. "This is particularly true given the current climate around the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, within the University community and around the globe, and the highly inflammatory nature of the image you posted."

Sherzad's discipline file, obtained by the Star Tribune through a public records request, also includes a copy of a November social media post supporting Palestinian rights and referring to the conflict as a genocide.

In the news conference Friday, Sherzad's supporters said they believe that people who support Palestinians and speak out about violence against them are being unfairly targeted.

"The facts of this case are completely unbelievable," said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR-Minnesota. He added: "It is a dark day for freedom of speech."

The lawsuit comes at a time when tensions are running high on many college campuses, including the University of Minnesota. The U.S. Department of Education has reported an "alarming nationwide rise" in complaints of antisemitism and Islamophobia since Oct. 7. On that day, Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel that killed an estimated 1,200 people and resulted in hundreds being taken hostage. Israel responded by invading the Gaza Strip, where the Palestinian death toll has now surpassed 34,000, according to statistics released by the United Nations.

Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, said he was not familiar with the specifics of Sherzad's case. He said of the flag with swastikas on it: "That's pretty disgusting."