Trans woman urges judge to keep lawsuit intact

Trans woman urges judge to keep lawsuit intact

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A trans woman who’s suing the University of Pennsylvania and its hospital for job discrimination recently urged a federal judge to deny the defendants’ motion to dismiss major portions of her case.

“Jane Doe” alleges she was fired from her job at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania after being treated negligently and recklessly while a patient there. Doe claims that HUP employees exhibited transphobia during a routine medical procedure on Feb. 20, 2018.

Doe filed suit in federal court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on July 2, 2019, seeking an unspecified amount in damages and a jury trial. But Penn recently asked U.S. District Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg to dismiss major portions of Doe’s case, including her allegations of negligence and recklessness. Penn maintains those allegations would be more appropriate in a medical-malpractice suit, which Doe hasn’t filed.

In a 16-page rebuttal brief filed Nov. 29, Doe reiterated her allegations that HUP employees acted recklessly and negligently — particularly in the recovery room, where she became disoriented due to the anesthesia she received.

“Ms. Doe’s disorientation [due to the anesthesia] was complete and visible to anyone in the room [but] no one helped,” the rebuttal brief states. “Ms. Doe was in the recovery room of the preeminent hospital in Philadelphia, one that promotes its sensitivity and compassion to its trans patients and employees. And no one helped.”

Doe’s filing goes on to assert that Doe had a “flashback” stemming from a prior rape incident, while in the recovery room.

“Ms. Doe’s trauma led her to flashback to a rape incident she had suffered years before,” the filing states. “She screamed, pleading for the men to leave the room. No one helped. Instead, they made things worse. A number of police-officer defendants ganged up on Ms. Doe and threw her into a wheelchair, held her down and, once they had subdued her with force, they handcuffed her. Ms. Doe, restrained and imprisoned by numerous police-officer defendants, was brought down through the elevators of her place of employment topless, shoeless, in a wheelchair, and still in handcuffs, all because defendants had failed to heed her directions regarding anesthesia — directions, incidentally, that they should have been aware of without specific instructions.”

Doe’s filing stresses that Penn defendants breached their duty of care in the recovery room. “Defendants owed a duty and duties to Ms. Doe, including but not limited to treating her sensitivity to anesthesia competently, respecting the information she conveyed regarding her recovery, treating the difficult recovery completely and [doing] all of that without further harming her or destroying her employment,” the filing states.

Penn defendants also have asked Goldberg to dismiss a bias claim Doe filed under the Americans With Disabilities Act, on the basis that Doe hasn’t shown that her gender dysphoria limits her life activities. Doe’s rebuttal filing emphasizes the ways her gender dysphoria limits her life activities.

“[Doe] has alleged substantial limitation of major life activities, including the fact that she couldn’t go to work because of her gender dysphoria and couldn’t socialize because of gender dysphoria — and defendants’ failure to recognize it — misgendering her and manhandling her while she was a patient. These important occupational and social functions were substantially limited by her gender dysphoria and defendants’ discrimination against her because of it.”

Additionally, Doe’s filing asserts that Penn defendants never discussed providing reasonable accommodations for her gender dysphoria. “Defendants have never discussed nor offered reasonable accommodation for Ms. Doe’s disability,” the filing states. “HUP and the other defendants acted with malice and/or reckless indifference, including but not limited to acting with transphobic hatred. After the [anesthesia] incident, Ms. Doe’s gender dysphoria flared up and she experienced difficulty in returning to HUP, her workplace — understandably, given her treatment at the hands of defendants. HUP knew, yet failed to make reasonable accommodations for her, then illegally fired her on June 28, 2018. Ms. Doe could have been reasonably accommodated but for her employer’s lack of good faith.”

As of presstime, Goldberg hadn’t ruled on Penn’s request to dismiss major portions of Doe’s case.

Previously, Penn defendants asked Goldberg to dismiss a bias claim Doe filed under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act on the basis that trans employees aren’t protected by the Act. But after significant media attention, Penn defendants withdrew that request of the judge.

Neither side had a comment for this story.


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