TAMPA, Fla. – In August 2020, WFLA News Channel 8 broadcasted a COVID-19 news story featuring Dr. Gina Midyett, who owns Life Focus Group Tampa. Its website lists her as a licensed mental health counselor and psychotherapist, located at 4144 North Armenia Avenue. According to various news sources, Dr. Midyett is also a former Hawaiian Tropic Miss Cuba-America featured on ABC Action News and is known as “Dr. Love” or “Dr. Gina” on radio shows.
Isle Jerez appeared alongside Dr. Midyett in the WFLA newscast, telling the story of how she and her fiancé “reached out” to Dr. Midyett for advice, as their marriage plans were on the rocks from COVID-19. Dr. Midyett was praised for helping Jerez re-focus her life with her fiancé by investing the wedding’s funds in a home. They opted for a simple marriage ceremony.
However, by the end of November, Jerez filed a small claims suit for $4,000 in unpaid wages and damages against Dr. Midyett.
Although Jerez appeared on television with Dr. Midyett telling her story, she was not a patient but rather an employee of sorts, who filled in for the newscast when confidential therapy patients declined to participate in the news interview. Jerez said the news story occurred around a month after she started work.
“We shared the details of our lives with each other,” Jerez explained.
Jerez supplied copies of her paychecks, payroll reports, and event timelines to The Free Press. For her last month of employment in October, Jerez contacted Dr. Midyett’s office on November 4 with a new home address, requesting they use it to send her last paycheck. But she reached out to the office again on November 17, indicating she had not received it, and discovered they had sent it to her old address.
On November 18, the check was re-issued overnight, again to the wrong address. On November 20, Jerez received the check but could not deposit it, as it wasn’t signed and was short $380. Jerez said she filed her small claims suit after this incident.
“Now knowing what I know,” Jerez said, “she takes advantage of people.”
Jerez was asked about her work arrangement with Dr. Midyett. She indicated a mutual friend introduced them and described it as an opportunity to help boost Dr. Midyett’s volume of patients during COVID-19 while learning from the doctor herself. According to her statements, she was paid in an odd fashion, performing various duties in and outside the office, with no contract or W-2 paperwork completed.
Asked why she had neither a contract nor completed W-2 forms, she said, “We had a verbal agreement. She would pay me monthly at $20 per patient seen for the month. There was no salary.”
Jerez’s last paycheck paid her $2,220 for a month of 130 patients served. Jerez claimed her amount due was $2,600. It appears the payroll report was not read correctly, as it paid her for 111 clients, which was the registered patient count for September rather than October.
Dr. Midyett was invited to share her side of the story but did not respond. Instead, Latour Lafferty, a partner at the law firm of Holland and Knight, sent an email indicating he would handle the inquiry.
Lafferty said, “She (Jerez) was hired without a contract as an hourly employee and started working in August. She was timely paid in full in November for all hours that she submitted for payment. No other compensation was earned or paid to her.”
Jerez vehemently denied Lafferty’s responses. “He doesn’t know anything,” she replied, “He’s just Dr. Midyett’s attorney boyfriend.”
Jerez claimed emails exist showing she started working for Midyett on July 1, 2020, not in August. Her submitted documents show paychecks and payroll reports indicating Dr. Midyett was paying her based on the total monthly number of patients seen, at $20 per patient session, meaning she was not an hourly employee.
Jerez said, “I picked up this woman’s children from school and pets from grooming. I had access to her home to let contractors in. So if I was an hourly employee, where would that have been paid out in addition to gas and mileage?”
Further, Jerez’s last paycheck was issued on a non-timely basis, received December 2 for October work, due to alleged office-related errors. Lastly, Lafferty did not explain why there was a discrepancy between what Dr. Midyett believed was owed and what Jerez claimed was due.
Jerez’s Small Claim for wages and damages proceeded through the courts until she decided to file a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal on December 16.
Asked why she didn’t pursue the unpaid amount, she replied, “I am spiritual. And I wanted to leave this behind in 2020.”