Life partners Melissa Dulude and Mandie Bryan filed EEOC complaints against Jacaranda Manor for allegedly firing them because of their sexual orientation.
St. Petersburg, FL - It may be legal in Florida to discriminate because of sexual orientation, but a pair of lesbian women in St. Pete are hoping their unexplained firings get the attention of federal investigators.
Life partners Melissa Dulude, 38, and Mandie Bryan, 31, filed EEOC complaints against Jacaranda Manor last week, alleging the Kenneth City nursing facility discriminated against them because of their sex and sex stereotypes, a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The life partners say from their first day on the job this summer, managers at Jacaranda Manor made comments about their presumed relationship, even though they didn't disclose it. They were told they couldn't work on the same floor, and even though they had no interaction at work, the comments persisted during their two-month employment there.
Delude's complaint alleges, "on November 16, 2012, I informed my unit supervisor that I had seen a male employee and a female employee engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior for the workplace."
Jacaranda has a posted policy of reporting misconduct in the facility.
"Minutes later," Delude's complaint continues, "I was called into the office and told that I was being discharged from my position. When I asked why, I was given no reason. My life partner was terminated the same day. Neither of us had conduct, attendance or performance issues."
ALSO: Florida cities rank low on GLBT progress
Both Delude and Bryan maintain they never received any warnings or indications about any problems on-the-job, and their near-simultaneous firings instantly reeked of discrimination.
But because Florida law doesn't prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, the women fear their options for recourse may be limited. They say they plan to file a civil lawsuit against Jacaranda Manor at the very least.
Equality Florida, a civil rights organization "dedicated to securing full equality for Florida's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community," has been fighting since 2004 to get a statewide discrimination law passed that recognizes sexual orientation, but has so far only succeeded in adding ordinances at the local level.
After they were fired, Delude and Bryan say they had to withdraw an offer on a home they were about to close. They, and Bryan's two daughters, have moved back in with Bryan's parents.
This is not the first time Jacaranda Manor has been accused of discrimination. In 2009, a Serbian employee sued after she says she was discriminated against because of her ethnicity; the federal lawsuit was settled in 2010.
Jacaranda Manor has also been plagued by "much below average" ratings from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. It's Staffer and Health Inspection ratings were both at rock-bottom.
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