A physician assistant fired by the University of Michigan Health-West for refusing to refer patients for sex-change surgeries and refusing to use preferred pronouns can now sue against the hospital, a federal court ruled.
US District Judge Jane M. Beckering of the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division issued an opinion and order in the case of Valerie Kloosterman v. Metropolitan Hospital et al., ruling in favor of the physician assistant, allowing her to proceed with the lawsuit and sue the hospital she claimed fired her for refusing sex-change surgeries.
Beckering wrote that Kloosterman “has sufficiently stated a free exercise of religion claim against Individual Defendants,” adding that there was evidence of hostility towards her religious beliefs.
The judge found that Kloosterman had a plausible claim that hospital officials violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.
She further concluded that the physician assistant’s claim that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was violated when she was fired and did not dismiss the allegation.
Beckering rejected Kloosterman’s claim of freedom of speech violation, writing that as an employee of the Hospital, Kloosterman “was speaking pursuant to her official duties, not as a citizen” and thus, “Plaintiff has not plausibly alleged that she was involved in constitutionally protected activity,” the Chrisitan Post reported.
The court rejected Kloosterman’s claims for “nominal damages against Defendants in their official capacities” and “claims for reinstatement and injunctive relief against Defendants in their individual capacities.”
Associate counsel for the First Liberty Institute, Kayla Toney, said in a Thursday statement that “religious employees cannot be discriminated against because of their beliefs.”
“It is intolerant of employers to demand that medical professionals like Valerie abandon their religious beliefs in order to remain employed,” stated Toney.
“We are pleased that the court recognized that our claims that Michigan Health violated Valerie’s constitutional rights and federal employment law have merit and that her lawsuit should proceed.”
Kloosterman was fired by Michigan Health in 2021 after refusing to complete a training program that required her to use the preferred pronouns of patients and perform sex-change surgeries.
Court documents accuse hospital officials of showing contempt for her religious beliefs in meetings to discuss her objections to the program.
Kloosterman denies allegations that she altered medical records to change patients’ pronouns. According to a complaint letter from First Liberty Institute to University of Michigan Health General Counsel Timothy G. Lynch in September 2022,
As The Daily Mail reported last year, the court filing claims that her termination letter listed three reasons for firing Ms. Kloosterman, “all of which directly related to her sincerely held religious beliefs about gender identity and to her conscientious objection to assisting in the provision of certain ‘gender reassignment’ drugs and procedures.”
Her lawyers added:
“If not for Ms. Kloosterman’s religious beliefs about gender and sexuality, she would not have been fired.”
Kloosterman told Fox News Digital that she was “heartbroken:”
“I had 17 years that I spent with patients and families, co-workers who sometimes I spent more time with than I did with my own family.”
“And they took that away. They took away the relationships that I had built up, and the people who trusted me for their care,” she said.
“It was over something that could have easily been accommodated based on the University of Michigan’s focus on being inclusive.”
A UMH-West spokesperson said in a statement:
“University of Michigan Health-West is committed to providing appropriate medical treatment to all patients and respects the religious beliefs of its employees.”
“We are confident Ms. Kloosterman’s claims, like those she filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, are without merit.”