On Monday morning, the Sun Sentinel dropped a big, wet kiss of an A1 story on Versailles Cafe, the famous Miami eatery located in Little Havana. The piece, titled "A Taste of Versailles," did a quick drive-by on the restaurant's history and sociopolitical significance while also mentioning that a cookbook on the place's "enduring legacy" is heading for press. Throw in a top-of-the-fold photo of Versailles founder Felipe Valls, his son Felipe Jr., and granddaughter Nicole and boom: journalism.
But... um... what the daily's story doesn't mention is what everyone else is talking about when it comes to Versailles: the recently filed harassment lawsuit alleging that the restaurant's owner -- the same guy smiling there on A1 -- engaged in serious sexual misconduct with a former employee, including videotaped sex in a sex-toy-littered back office at the restaurant.
The suit was filed on August 29 in Miami-Dade Circuit Court by Ayler Ayala. The plaintiff previously worked as "a cashier at Miami International Airport from May 15, 2010, until March 10, 2013," according to our sister paper, Miami New Times. "Prior to that, Ayala was employed as a cashier at the Cafeteria at Versailles Cuban Restaurant, owned and/or operated by members of the Valls family."
According to the suit, Ayala began working at Versailles in January 2005. Soon after, she began an "extremely sordid" liaison with Felipe Valis. Valls is accused of:
[requesting that] Ms. Ayala engage in sexual relations with Mr. Valls, requesting that Ms. Ayala engage in sexual relationships with another female Valls Group employees at the "Miami Princess" hotel, photographing and videotaping Ms. Ayala naked and in sexually explicit poses, and engaging in sexual relations with Ms. Ayala in a secret room at the back of Mr. Valls' private office in the restaurant that contained a bed and bathroom and was littered with sex toys and sex paraphernalia. Ms. Ayala thus was and is well aware that Mr. Valls followed this modus operandi with other female victims.
The relationship ended in 2009. Ayala lost her job but was then offered her airport position. This position was with a company also controlled by the Valls family, according to the lawsuit. Now Felipe Jr. and Nicole -- the other two faces on the Sun Sentinel front page -- make an appearance. From Miami New Times:
In 2012, Felipe Valls Jr. and one of his daughters, Nicole Valls, discovered that Ayala was still employed by a family-owned entity. "Thereafter, Plaintiff was subjected to relentless and continuous acts of harassment," including "harassing and obscene comments such as referring, in front of Plaintiff to Hispanics as 'Fucking Latins,' and telling Plaintiff to speak only English because her paychecks were written in English, not Spanish."
The defendants' attorney has issued a statement about the lawsuit, printed below. But Versailles was also named in a March 2014 Whistleblower Retaliation and Defamation Lawsuit filed by former employees. The Sun Sentinel story didn't mention that one either.
Not only is this lawsuit baseless and devoid of any merit, it is a blatant attempt by a former disgruntled employee to use the court system to improperly extract money from an employer through salacious, ludicrous and irrelevant allegations. Ms. Ayala was employed from May 2010 until March 2013 - when she voluntarily resigned her position as a cashier at an airport restaurant managed by Global Miami J.V. While employed, she was repeatedly disciplined for being late to work, skipping work altogether and conducting personal business on company time. She resigned her position voluntarily after being issued a final disciplinary warning.
During her employment, Ms. Ayala never raised any allegations of harassment on the job because of her Hispanic origin. She first made the allegations in her voluntary resignation form, which she filled out four days after her last day at work and after two days of unauthorized absences
Ms. Ayala filed her complaint of national origin discrimination with the appropriate agency of the federal government, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and GMJV vehemently contested and continues to deny her allegations. After a year of the EEOC claim being filed, she received no finding of any probable cause.
She now has filed this frivolous lawsuit claiming national origin discrimination repeating the same frivolous allegations and has included irrelevant, new allegations about her past employment - during which she never filed a complaint of any sort.
Global Miami J.V. has a work force of 623 employees, of whom 90 percent -- 561 employees -- are Hispanic. The company's senior management - and its owners - are predominantly Hispanic. It is ludicrous on its face to allege that the company would tolerate any discrimination against Hispanics or allow a manager to use profane and discriminatory language in addressing any of its employees.
Global Miami J.V. has a very strict, written anti-discrimination policy and empowers employees who have any work-related issues to bring their concerns to management or to the human resources department. Significantly, Ms. Ayala never contacted anyone in the company to voice concerns prior to her resignation.
As to the allegations by Ms. Ayala that during her previous employment years ago she had a consensual sexual relationship with Mr. Felipe Valls Sr. in exchange for promises of gifts and money, this is nothing but a slanderous and viciously scurrilous attack against Mr. Valls Sr. in order to draw news media attention to a meritless, frivolous and otherwise unremarkable lawsuit. It is significant to note that Ms. Ayala never filed any claims against her previous employer for this alleged conduct at that job, which she left years ago.
By including these extraneous allegations in her complaint now, Ms. Ayala is characterizing herself as someone who would willingly compromise herself in exchange for potential monetary gain. It's salacious and scandalous. However, it's irrelevant.
These allegations are included for only one purpose: use the potential embarrassment value to attempt to procure an unwarranted monetary settlement.
This case is wholly without merit, as will be demonstrated in a court of law.