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Lesbian employee says nursing home tolerated anti-gay discrimination

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After being assaulted and harassed for being a lesbian, a senior living facility employee is suing the facility for discrimination.

Michelle Del Valle was working at Inspired Living Validus Senior Living in Tampa when she was assaulted by the spouse of a resident.

Now she is suing her employer on seven counts including negligence, retaliation, breaking the Florida Civil Rights Act, and discrimination.

Del Valle began working for the facility June 1, 2015 as a medical technician. She was responsible for giving residents designated medicines. To do this, she used a secure cart that was never to leave her side while performing her job duties.

Del Valle claims to have been harassed, ridiculed and abused daily because of her sexual orientation. Her employer didn’t do much to stop the harassment, despite multiple complaints from Del Valle.

The spouse, Patrice Gunther, demanded Del Valle refrain from contacting or coming near her and her husband. Inspired Living did as requested, thus pardoning illegal acts happening within its facility, in the opinion of Del Valle.

Per the suit, Gunther told the director of the senior living facility Del Valle was “in her ‘space’ too much,” and that she did not like the employee because she’s lesbian.

Gunther would call Del Valle a “dyke” and “trash” and would be aggressive and angry toward her.

Rather than defending its employee, Inspired Living indefinitely suspended Del Valle. She was suspended for days before she was brought back to work and “was directed to stay away from Mr. and Mrs. Gunther.” She wasn’t permitted to be in the same hallway as the couple, take her cart to the dining hall where the Gunther’s could be, or administer Mr. Gunther his medication.

Gunther was also given Del Valle’s work schedule to know when she would be in the building.

Even after Del Valle complied with her new rules, Gunther continued to make complaints about her presence.

Things took a turn for the worse Aug. 28, 2015.

Del Valle was handing out medicine to patients when she arrived at Gunther’s room. Per procedure, she called another employee to get Mr. Gunther’s medicine from the cart. Gunther came from her husband’s room and ran to the medicine cart. She screamed at Del Valle to “get out of here.” However, Del Valle would have been in violation of her job duties had she left the cart, so she apologized and told Gunther she had to do her job.

Gunther continued screaming, calling Del Valle a “piece of crap.”

Gunther attempted to grab the cart key from Del Valle’s hand, causing her to fall backward. On Aug. 31, Del Valle was terminated for not walking away from the situation. If she had left the cart, she still could have faced termination.

In the suit, Del Valle seeks damages for front and back pay, benefits and emotional distress caused by the harassment.

The Inspired Living facility in question is at 5130 Kelly Road. It opened in early 2015 with a specialization in Alzheimer’s, dementia and other mental impairments.

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