Transgender EMT sues hospital for discrimination, harassment and bullying

The federal lawsuit alleges a culture of harassment and discrimination during and after the EMT, ER tech underwent transition from male to female


By Joe Nelson
San Bernardino County Sun

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — A transgender woman and EMT at Bear Valley Community Hospital in Big Bear Lake has filed a federal lawsuit against the hospital, alleging a culture of harassment and discrimination that forced her to go out on disability.

Grace McAllister, 50, of Crestline, filed the lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court in Riverside, alleging civil rights violations and violations of the state Fair Employment and Housing Act.

McAllister worked as an EMT and ER technician at the hospital for eight years without a hitch until 2011 when she began the transition from male to female.

In August 2012, McAllister underwent multiple gender transition surgeries. In January 2013, she changed her legal name, and on June 18, 2014, McAllister had confirmation surgery, according to the lawsuit.

As McAllister underwent changes to her body, she also endured some painful changes at work.

Hospital staff, according to the lawsuit, regularly and repeatedly bullied, belittled, and insulted McAllister, calling her an “ugly girl,” criticizing her makeup and attire, and refusing to refer to McAllister as a “she” instead of a “he.” They accused her of being a sexual predator of male patients. McAllister’s tires were slashed and her car keys hidden by coworkers, according to the lawsuit.

Hospital CEO John Friel said Monday the hospital had not been served with the lawsuit, and therefore declined to comment.

Transgender issues have become a front-burner societal topic in recent years, underscored by the controversy over a transgender person’s right to use the public restroom of their choice as well as television shows and movies such as “The Danish Girl” and the Amazon series “Transparent.”

One hospital employee, Shawn Beckerbean, asked McAllister if she put her penis in a jar after her surgery, and said to a nurse, “If I met a girl and found out she was like that I would kill her,” the lawsuit states.

The hospital changed McAllister’s insurance policy so it would not cover her gender confirmation surgery, and when McAllister complained to hospital personnel director Karen Mathieu, she reacted with hostility and laughed at McAllister’s request, according to the lawsuit. Furthermore, Mathieu, according to the lawsuit, continued referring to McAllister as a “he” and told her to “move to San Francisco.”

Blue Cross and Calpers, the lawsuit states, ordered the hospital to reinstate McAllister’s insurance coverage, and when McAllister mentioned it to her supervisor, Carol Beckerbean, Beckerbean became angry, questioned why the insurance covered McAllister’s surgery, and complained the surgery would be disruptive to other employees’ schedules.

On another occasion, Carol Beckerbean said she would like to plant a bomb on McAllister’s Jeep, according to the lawsuit.

Carol Beckerbean is Shawn Beckerbean’s mother, McAllister said. Neither could be reached for comment.

One one occasion, McAllister was taking a patient’s vital signs when Dr. Chris Fagan, the hospital’s ER director who also serves as secretary on the hospital’s board of directors, asked her to perform a particular treatment, followed by, “Do you hear me, sir?” the lawsuit alleges.

When McAllister corrected Fagan and reminded him she was female, Fagan yelled, “Not in front of the patients!” Humiliated, McAllister walked out and was met by several smirking staff members, according to the lawsuit.

When the hospital, at McAllister’s request, finally agreed to hold a sensitivity training class in August 2013, the word “transgender” was only mentioned once, and it was mentioned in the context of it being a sexual orientation and not a birth disorder, according to the lawsuit.

When McAllister pointed out the errors, requested they be corrected and asked for another class held, Harold Grayson, the hospital’s interim executive director, said there would be no more classes, and that the hospital had paid a lot of money to have the class, the lawsuit states.

On Jan. 29, 2015, McAllister went out on medical leave.

McAllister’s attorney, Stephen M. Harris, said the lawsuit speaks for itself.

“I look forward to moving through the litigation process and trying to address what the lawsuit contends and what I contend is a culture of discrimination at the hospital,” Harris said.

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©2016 the San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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