Nursing home lied before firing Ohio worker over his sexual orientation, feds say

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A company managing nursing homes in southern Ohio violated federal law when a maintenance director was discriminated against over his sexual orientation, officials say.

Now the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing Aspire Nursing Homes in federal court, alleging that the worker was illegally fired.

The maintenance director was hired to work for Northwood Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing facilities in October 2019, where he helped residents with housing needs and handled repairs, among other responsibilities, according to the lawsuit filed Aug. 8.

Starting in April 2020, under a new regional director, authorities say the maintenance director was told he’d have reduced access to certain materials and limits to his existing authority. He also was given contradictory directives.

“The reduction adversely affected the scope of (his) position and capacity to carry out his assigned duties,” the lawsuit states.

He was also “treated less favorably because of his sex orientation, including minimizing his capacity to address facility maintenance and rejecting or ignoring his recommendations for facility improvement,” the EEOC says.

Aspire did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News on Aug. 10.

About three months later, on July 27, the regional director met with the worker and told him the company was moving in a “different direction” — and told him he should submit his 30-day resignation notice so he wouldn’t be fired, according to the lawsuit.

Attorneys representing the maintenance director say he had never been put on a “performance improvement plan” or given an “unsatisfactory performance evaluation” as of that date.

The maintenance director refused to resign because “he believed he was performing the job well.”

From that July 2020 meeting through Sept. 1, 2020, the EEOC says the company tried to find reasons to support firing the director while subjecting him to unfavorable treatment.

The worker was fired on Sept. 1, 2020, according to the lawsuit.

The EEOC says it tried to work with Aspire Regional Partners, Inc.; MSTC Development, Inc.; and their nursing homes to “eliminate the unlawful employment practices and provide appropriate relief” starting August 2021, but by March 2022, federal authorities were unable to reach an agreement.

The lawsuit names Aspire Regional Partners, Inc.; MSTC Development, Inc.; and nursing homes Northwood Assisted Living and Northwood Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Facilities as defendants.

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