How Employer Health Plans’ Exclusion of Gender-Affirming Care May Constitute Illegal Employment Discrimination

Transgender people face discrimination in many settings, and that includes the workplace. One way is when their employers provide insurance coverage to employees in a discriminatory manner. If your employer’s insurance plan discriminates against your gender-affirming care, that potentially can represent a violation of federal law and you should talk to an Atlanta employment discrimination lawyer about your situation.

Currently, several state government workers are pursuing a discrimination case exactly like this.

M.R., one of the employees, is a staff accountant at the Department of Audits and Accounts and a trans man. The accountant’s doctor recommended certain surgical procedures. The Georgia State Health Benefit Plan denied coverage, so the accountant sued.

According to the lawsuit, the state’s health coverage plan explicitly differentiated between medical treatments and procedures used as part of a gender transition versus those same treatments used for other medical needs. For example, a woman with breast cancer-related risks could obtain coverage for a double mastectomy, but a trans man seeking the same surgery as part of gender dysphoria care would be denied coverage.

Additionally, the insurance companies that provided the state with its health benefits plan — UnitedHealthcare and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield — allegedly warned the state that its plan’s express exclusion for gender-affirming care was discriminatory.

Previous Successes by Other Transgender Workers

There’s precedent for the workers’ position. Last year, a trans woman who worked for the Houston County Sheriff’s Office won her discrimination case. As this blog covered in March, the deputy’s doctors recommended both “top” (breast) and “bottom” (vaginoplasty) surgeries, but the county’s health plan — which explicitly excluded coverage for “sex change” surgeries or related treatments — denied coverage.

That exclusion, according to the court, represented discrimination on the basis of the deputy’s gender identity and, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, gender identity discrimination necessarily constitutes a violation of federal anti-discrimination law (Title VII.)

The deputy, in support of her position, provided deposition testimony from the county’s Director of Personnel, who testified that mastectomies for cancer treatment would be covered but mastectomies to treat gender dysphoria would not. Similarly, the director testified that hormone treatment for menopause was covered, but hormone treatment as part of a trans woman’s transition was not.

The jury ultimately awarded her $60,000 in damages.

The Houston County deputy is not the only trans worker to succeed in a case like this.

Last August, a federal judge in North Carolina ruled in favor of a group of state government workers. The issues were similar, as the state’s health coverage targeted its exclusion toward “sex change”-related treatments. Hormone treatments and surgeries that were often covered were explicitly excluded if the plan member seeking that care was transgender, the workers alleged. That, according to the court, represented violations of the Equal Protection Clause, Title VII, and the Affordable Care Act.

Discrimination based on a person’s gender identity is a form of sex discrimination and is a violation of federal law. If you’ve been the target of employment discrimination because you’re a transgender person, the skilled Atlanta gender identity discrimination attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert are here to help. If you have questions about your legal rights and options, contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation today.

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