At the same time that Mayor Dan Gelber announced he wants to rid Miami Beach of topless brawlers and police-car twerkers, a new filing in a discrimination lawsuit against the city accuses government employees of "slut-shaming," and then firing, a worker.
Ginette Luxama was a financial analyst for the City of Miami Beach from 2011 until she was terminated in 2019. Her suit alleges that her supervisor, Allison Williams, constantly criticized her looks and mistreated her.
In a complaint filed in federal court in May, Luxama sued the city for gender discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, hostile work environment, and wrongful termination. The complaint (first reported by the Florida Bulldog) lists instances in which Williams allegedly inappropriately touched Luxama when adjusting her clothes, said Luxama looked like a stripper, and told her, "If I looked like you, I would not work. I would just let a man fuck me and suck his dick."
The complaint also alleges that men in similar positions in Luxama's department were treated better than she was.
"If I needed something, I had to ask for permission to go get it, because [Williams] said I was a distraction. I was wearing what I thought was professional, but she specified that on me it wasn't professional," Luxama tells New Times.
Luxama's lawsuit describes a work environment where her body shape, and her supervisor's problem with it, made going to work each day a struggle. She alleges that Williams called her a "walking sexual harassment case" and told her that her "ass is the devil."
No matter how conservatively she dressed, Luxama tells New Times, Williams considered her looks to be a problem.
"If I was wearing a skirt or a sweater, she would feel that I needed to be buttoned up or that the skirt was too fitted. She would adjust the skirt or tap me on the bottom and say 'that' was the cause of the problem," Luxama says.
In her complaint, Luxama includes excerpts from text conversations between herself and Williams. In one text, Williams sent a picture that said, "IT'S LIKE MY MOM ALWAYS SAID... 'What the fuck is wrong with you?'"
According to documents obtained by New Times, Luxama was placed on several performance-improvement plans, then fired in May 2019 because of unsatisfactory performance.
Her lawyer contends that Luxama's complaints about sexual harassment were the real reason she was let go.
"It's our position that these were not legitimate grounds for firing and that it was pretextual," attorney Marc Burton tells New Times.
Williams was ensnared in a separate controversy in 2017 when $3.6 million was stolen from Miami Beach under the finance department's nose. Williams, who was the city's chief financial officer at the time, demoted herself to deputy director after the snafu.
The Miami Beach Office of the City Attorney has filed a motion to dismiss Luxama's suit, arguing that it fails to prove she was subjected to a hostile work environment, harassed by her "same-sex deputy director," or treated differently from anyone else.
"Simple teasing, offhand comments, and isolated incidents do not rise to the level of actionable discrimination," the city contends.
The city attorney also supplied a more exhaustive record of text conversations between Luxama and Williams.
For instance, during the exchange in which Williams texted the image that said, "'What the fuck is wrong with you?'" she added, "Happy Mother's Day."
Replied Luxama: "Nino Brown you are too gangsta for me. Leaving me speechless...Happy Mother's Day..."
Luxama tells New Times she felt she had to respond cordially to Williams' texts in order to maintain a good relationship with her supervisor.
Notwithstanding its 297-page printout of text messages, the city's motion employs language that Burton believes was intended to "slut-shame" his client.
"Plaintiff's naked assertion that the City treats similarly situated men more favorably than Plaintiff is exactly the type of conclusion which is not entitled to the assumption of truth... Are scantily clad men allowed to roam the Finance Department uninhibited by management?" the city attorney argues in the motion to dismiss.
"What she cannot do is simply throw out the bare assertion that similarly situated men were treated differently by the City and survive a motion to dismiss," the motion goes on to state.
In a response to the city's filing, Burton noted that the phrase "scantily clad" appeared nowhere in Luxama's complaint. And he adds that the city's use of "naked" and "bare" in its argument is inappropriate and an attempt to humiliate his client.
"It is one thing for the City to attempt to defend this action based on the law, and quite another for the City to use inappropriate language and arguments in the Motion to Dismiss, which are made to attempt to 'slut-shame' Ms. Luxama, and to intimidate her and cause her embarrassment," Burton states in his response.
He tells New Times: "If you've never seen 'slut-shaming' in a brief before, it's because I've never written 'slut-shaming' in a brief before. This flips this lawsuit on its head in a very inappropriate manner."
In its response to Burton, the city doubled down on its argument by asserting that Luxama was determined to come to work in skimpy outfits.
Asked about the alleged slut-shaming, Assistant City Attorney Robert Rosenwald told New Times via email that the city does not comment on ongoing litigation.
But he volunteers that many of the allegations in Luxama's complaint are untrue.
"If the case proceeds, we will vigorously defend the facts alleged in this frivolous lawsuit," Rosenwald says.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
The city attorney's office also sent New Times Luxama's three performance-improvement plans, which note that she fell short in consistency, reliability, and communication with supervisors.
Luxama says she was placed on one of the performance-improvement plans was when she was on family and medical leave because her son had been injured and needed surgery. She was in and out of the office often and says her supervisors were unhappy with that.
"No matter what I did, there was always something wrong," she says.
District Judge Marcia Cooke has yet to rule on the city's motion to dismiss or any of the subsequent responses.