Transgender nursing assistant sues rehab facility

A transgender nursing assistant has filed suit against PowerBack Rehabilitation, alleging anti-LGBT mistreatment and wrongful discharge at the Center City rehabilitation facility

The 140-bed facility is located at 1526 Lombard Street and provides post-hospital rehabilitation and skilled nursing care for its patients. “Jane Doe” worked there from February 2019 to February 2020 as a certified nursing assistant, according to a 40-page lawsuit filed Feb. 5 in federal court.

Doe allegedly experienced pervasive anti-LGBT workplace bias, including being repeatedly misgendered and harassed by her co-workers, according to the lawsuit.

For example, Doe was outed as a trans woman beyond the extent to which she was comfortable. Due to the misgendering, one patient allegedly told Doe: “I thought a man was supposed to come in [to my room] and help me,” according to the lawsuit.

On another occasion, Doe was accused of criticizing a co-worker’s appearance. When Doe denied doing so, a supervisor allegedly told Doe: “You look like someone that would say something like this.” Doe responded, “What does a person who would say something like that look like?” The supervisor allegedly replied: “A person like you shouldn’t be coming into work talking about anyone else’s appearance… A person like you should be coming into work staying below the radar. You are not here to get attention, you are here to do your work… Go home. I don’t care if you’re offended… I don’t care if your feelings are hurt,” according to the lawsuit.

The supervisor allegedly pressured Doe into admitting she talked about the co-worker behind their back, which Doe refused to do. The supervisor also said camera footage existed of Doe making the comments, which wasn’t true, according to the lawsuit.

Doe complained about the alleged mistreatment to management. On Feb. 12, 2020, Doe was suspended and subsequently fired, allegedly due to anti-LGBT bias and retaliation. Other similarly-situated employees accused of misconduct weren’t fired, including a co-worker who would come to work intoxicated and another co-worker who called someone a “bitch,” according to the lawsuit.

Doe sought help from her union, which was unavailing. She also filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which issued a right-to-sue letter on Jan. 20, 2021, according to the lawsuit

Doe alleges violations of federal and local laws, including Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance. She also claims PowerBack failed to provide reasonable accommodations for her disability, which is gender dysphoria. 

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. A jury trial has been requested. Doe is seeking an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages, along with reasonable attorney’s fees. Moreover, she’s seeking a neutral job reference from PowerBack and an LGBT-inclusive antibias policy at the facility, if one is lacking.

“While we cannot comment on the specifics of pending litigation, we deny the allegations and will vigorously defend [against them],” a PowerBack spokesperson told PGN.

An attorney for Doe had no comment for this story