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Lawsuit: Former Joliet caregiver abused, discriminated for being a lesbian

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JOLIET – A former employee of a home care agency is suing the company over allegations of workplace abuse and discrimination because of her sexual orientation.

Nicole Novak, a former caregiver at the Joliet branch of Help At Home, alleged in a lawsuit filed Jan. 8 in Will County that her repeated complaints about the abuse by a manager went ignored.

An area director for the company allegedly told her she was an “illiterate individual” and did not want to receive any more complaints because “they were a nuisance.”

The lawsuit alleges the company violated the Illinois Humans Rights Act and states Novak filed complaints with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. She received notices of dismissal from the state agency and “exhausted her administrative remedies under Illinois law.”

“She’s just looking for a fair resolution based on the claims that have been raised,” said David B. Levin, Novak’s attorney.

Help At Home did not return a call Friday afternoon.

The company, along with its sister company Oxford Healthcare, has 146 branches in 13 states, including Illinois. The company provides a “viable alternative to living in a nursing home or long-term care facility,” according to its website.

In the lawsuit, Novak alleges that in 2016, her manager, Meagen Galloway, discriminated against her because she is a lesbian, saying “being a lesbian is a disability and said that lesbians should be banned because the Bible is against such behavior.”

“Galloway also asked [Novak] if she had considered seeing a mental health professional to get evaluated due to her sexual preference,” the lawsuit alleged.

Novak also alleged Galloway yelled at her, made negative comments about her speech, issued false disciplinary warnings and coerced her to sign a write-up containing false information.

When reached Friday, Galloway declined to answer questions about the lawsuit and insisted The Herald-News contact the corporate office for Help At Home.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ll have to call the corporate office,” she said.

Novak allegedly contacted Rebecca McClellan, the company’s area director, multiple times with complaints about her treatment, but they were ignored.

– Felix Sarver

“[McClellan] ignored [Novak’s] concerns, called [Novak] an illiterate individual, told her she was slow and told her she did not want to receive any more complaints by letter or phone call because they were a nuisance,” the lawsuit alleged.