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The transgender woman claims she was mistreated after a routine medical procedure at HUP on Feb. 20, 2018. 

Credit: Marie Forgeard

A former Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania employee, who identifies as a transgender woman, has opened a lawsuit against HUP for gender discrimination. After a recent judge’s order, the lawyers for the employee and HUP are meeting to revise the plaintiff's claims against the university. 

The transgender woman, given the pseudonym “Jane Doe," claims she was mistreated after a routine medical procedure at HUP on Feb. 20, 2018. After the event, she claims she had difficulty returning to work because the hospital exacerbated her gender dysphoria, which is distress felt as a result of conflict between biological sex and gender identity. Four months later, HUP fired her, according to the lawsuit filed on July 2. 

The claims include assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, violation of right of privacy, medical malpractice, sex discrimination, and wrongful termination.

“While we are unable to comment on pending litigation, respect for all our patients is a cornerstone of care across Penn Medicine, and we value and support diversity among both our patients and our workforce,” a Penn Medicine spokesperson said.

Doe claims that when she arrived at HUP for a routine medical procedure in February 2018, the first receptionist she met misgendered her, calling her by her former male name and using masculine pronouns. 

The hospital also ignored Doe’s specific instructions about her sensitivity to anesthesia, causing her to wake up in the recovery room disoriented and panicked, according to the lawsuit. The report states the defendants were “simply watching as she started to climb out of her bed seeking help.”

Penn Police officers arrived and forcefully subdued her, put her in a wheelchair and handcuffed her, according to the lawsuit. She claims she was wheeled out of the hospital partially naked and left on the street. 

After the incident, Doe's gender dysphoria flared up and she had difficulty returning to work at HUP, according to the lawsuit. She claims the hospital was aware of her situation yet failed to make reasonable accommodations for her, and on June 28, 2018, HUP terminated Doe's employment.

“On information and belief, defendants were failing to act because Ms. Doe is trans, and a person with a disability; their failure to act and their malpractice and other wrongful acts were at least partially based on discrimination and hate,” the lawsuit states.

Penn's attorneys filed a notice on Aug. 9 requesting the plaintiff to drop several allegations because they do not hold legal weight. The lawyers wrote that the defendants are not public entities and thus cannot be held responsible for the alleged violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. They also wrote in the notice that the allegations in the complaint do not adequately constitute medical malpractice or privacy violations. 

In the most recent development of the lawsuit, a new court order has been issued by a judge. On Sept. 11, U.S. District Judge Mitchell Goldberg ordered the parties to discuss the disputed allegations and for the plaintiff to file an amended complaint, a document that lists the claims against Penn.

Penn attorneys submitted a legal filing on Aug. 2 requesting Jane Doe to reveal her real name, as it was a “strong presumption” in federal cases for litigants to be identified by their real names. The filing stated it was unfair for her to use “the shield of a pseudonym” to openly sue named Penn employees.

In a responding Aug. 16 statement, however, the plaintiff argued that doing so would violate her HIPAA and other privacy rights. Penn dropped its request to unseal Jane Doe’s identity on Aug. 21. It is unclear why this decision was made.

The defendants include HUP, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pennsylvania Health System, Dr. Octavia Pickett-Blakely, and several unnamed Penn medical employees as well as Penn Police officers.

As part of an LGBT Employee group, Doe provided education and policy guidance to HUP on how to treat transgender patients, according to the lawsuit. HUP’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Neil Fishman, said to a state investigator that “a number of [HUP’s] internal processes have been reviewed and revised based on this incident," according to the lawsuit.

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