Jose Lambiet

Ex-worker sues, says bosses hassled her over her religion


A former employee of Miami Behavioral Health Center has just sued the nonprofit mental health provider on allegations of religious discrimination.

Jenessys Gomez, 37, says she is a follower of the Yoruba religion, the African ancestor to voodoo and Santeria.

She claims in court papers her bosses and co-workers made fun of her after she started wearing Yoruba-mandated white from head to toe, including a white cover over her shaved head, for a full calendar year.

The problems got worse for Gomez, she says, when her bosses forced her to wear her clinic uniform over her white dress and to take off her head gear, exposing her shaved head.

Gomez says the harassment got so bad that she suffered a miscarriage before she was allegedly forced to resign from the company — headquartered near the Mall of The Americas in Miami — in 2015, after 3 1/2 years.

Gomez filed in federal court on St. Patrick’s Day.

Her lawyer didn’t respond to a request for comment, and clinic officials, who were served with a copy of the complaint Monday, didn’t return a call for comment.

Gomez, a case manager paid $22 an hour, claims in her filing that her job taking care of the poor’s mental heath needs was “a perfect way to channel her moral values and religious beliefs.”

But, while early on in her tenure the clinic made accommodations for her Yoruba beliefs, the Cuba-born Gomez says things changed when she initiated her “retreat period” and started wearing white.

While her bosses seemed fine with it for three months, she maintains she was told she needed to wear the company’s uniform and stop wearing her white headgear. Then she was told to stop wearing her white dress underneath her medical outfit.

In time, Gomez says, she was required to tell incoming patients about her beliefs in divinities like Shango and Oya and could work only on cases of new patients who acknowledged that Gomez was into Yoruba.

Gomez claims her co-workers gave her hard time about it, too, excluding her from office parties.

Gomez is suing for religious discrimination and wants her job back, plus wages lost since she left, according to the lawsuit.