Story at a glance
- A Montana transgender woman on Monday was awarded more than $66,000 after she was denied gender-affirming care under her employer’s health insurance plan in 2018.
- The damage award comes more than a year after the Montana Human Rights Bureau ruled that Yellowstone County’s ban on coverage for gender-affirming care constituted unlawful sex discrimination.
- The county has said it will not appeal the damage award, according to The Associated Press.
A county in Montana has been ordered to pay more than $66,000 to a former employee after the individual was denied payment for gender-affirming care under the county’s health insurance plan.
Damages were awarded Monday to Eleanor Anderson Maloney, a transgender woman and former prosecutor in the county attorney’s office, the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana, which represented Maloney, said Tuesday in a news release.
Maloney filed a complaint against Yellowstone County, Mont., in 2018 when she was denied “all gender-affirming healthcare” under the county’s health benefit plan, according to the ACLU.
At the time, the county’s health insurance plan outright denied coverage for “services or supplies related to sexual reassignment and reversal of such procedures,” according to an investigative report by the Montana Human Rights Bureau.
In August 2020, an administrative law judge with the bureau ruled that Yellowstone’s ban on coverage for gender-affirming care constituted illegal sex discrimination and violated the Montana Human Rights Act.
Just two months earlier, the U.S. Supreme court had ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects employees against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Montana Human Rights Bureau’s decision “should stand as a clear warning to any county that seeks to deny medically necessary health care to transgender Montanans,” Alex Rate, legal director at the ACLU of Montana, said in a statement. “These provisions are blatantly discriminatory and cannot stand.”
On Monday, Maloney was awarded damages totaling $66,500, covering lost earnings stemming from Maloney’s “constructive discharge” or her involuntary resignation brought on by a hostile work environment.
“Eleanor’s victory should send a message to policymakers and employers around the country that denying health care to transgender people is costly,” Malita Picasso, staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, said Tuesday in a statement. “Multiple ACLU clients who have sued over the denial of gender-affirming care have received compensation for the discrimination they faced. No employee should have to tolerate being denied insurance coverage for their medically necessary health care solely because they are transgender.”
“A person shouldn’t be forced to ask a court just to receive medically necessary health care, but this victory reaffirms that when trans people fight back, we win,” she added.
The county doesn’t intend to appeal the damage award, The Associated Press reported.
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