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Former prosecutor sues Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala, alleging discrimination

(click above image for original article in the Orlando Sentinel)

A former prosecutor is suing Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala on the grounds of discrimination, alleging she was transferred and then fired after a breakup with Ayala’s second-in-command, Chief Assistant State Attorney Deborah Barra.

Kailey Evans was an assistant state attorney under Ayala’s predecessor, Jeff Ashton, from 2014 to Jan. 2, 2017, four days before Ayala took the oath of office.

The lawsuit was filed Monday. In it, Evans alleges she and Barra broke up in July 2016 when they were both assistant state attorneys in Ashton’s administration. When they were dating, Evans said, she told Barra about her struggles with depression, anxiety and an eating disorder.

“It’s very important for employers to refrain from using private, confidential medical information of their respectful employees as part of any effort to try to discipline, terminate or otherwise take action against their employees. That’s the thing that got my attention,” said Travis Hollifield, Evans’ attorney.

Ayala’s office claimed Evans did not keep her job in the new administration because of misconduct.

“A member of The Florida Bar outside of our office provided reliable information that Ms. Evans intentionally fabricated evidence and lied to the court,” Kamilah Perry, general counsel to Ayala's office, said in a statement. “The state attorney has zero tolerance for unethical conduct by assistant state attorneys. Therefore Ms. Evans’ claims that her disability had any bearing on her employment are completely unsubstantiated and are without merit.”

Evans’ attorney called Perry’s allegation “false, or at the very least substantially trumped-up to avoid liability.” The Florida Bar Association does not list a public disciplinary history for Evans.

After the breakup, Evans told a few other co-workers about their relationship, records show. One was Assistant State Attorney Kelly Hicks, a homicide prosecutor whom Evans describes in the lawsuit as her mentor and a close friend of Barra’s.

Two days later, Evans’ supervisor and a human resources director called her into a meeting, the lawsuit alleges. They suggested she take leave from her job because she was “mentally and emotionally unfit for duty,” according to the complaint.

They asked Evans to get a health care provider to certify her as fit for duty, according to the complaint. She complied.

“Subsequently, [Evans] was disciplined ostensibly for talking about the relationship with Barra in the office (even though many other employees talked about their personal relationships in the office and were not disciplined), transferred into another division, and then terminated,” Hollifield wrote in the complaint.

Evans filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations on March 9. She did not hear back, Hollifield said, and filed suit.

Evans is now working at a private law firm. or 407-420-5774

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