A transgender woman who underwent her transition while employed sued her former employer Deluxe Financial Services in the U.S. District of Minnesota under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. s. 1981, and the Americans with Disabilities Act for monetary and injunctive relief. The plaintiff claimed that she was subjected to a hostile work environment and received disparate treatment because of her sex, gender preferences, and condition of gender dysphoria.
The plaintiff alleged that the defendant would not allow the plaintiff to use common female restrooms, and its HR department implied that undergoing genital reconstruction surgery was the only condition under which she would be allowed to do so. Plaintiff believed that this inquiry about the details of her genitalia was an invasion of privacy. On numerous occasions and using multiple forms of “proof,” Plaintiff also requested a change of her name and sex in internal records. After some hassle and delay, only some records were changed. This incomplete change of records resulted in, for example, outside merchants referring to plaintiff by her former male name.
Plaintiff also alleged that she was regularly referred to in a demeaning and derogatory manner by coworkers, and though she requested intervention, the defendant did not investigate her claims or issue any discipline. For example, coworkers and managers continually misgendered Plaintiff, used her former male name, and said that she looked like “Tarzan".
Defendant’s employee health insurance plan also contained a clause that categorically excluded all health benefits having to do with gender transition to transgender persons, regardless of medical necessity. Only if the individual’s gender did not match what was on the initial form would these benefits be denied - theoretically, a non-transgender person could be covered for similar treatments. As a result, plaintiff paid for hormone therapy and blood level tests out of pocket.
Plaintiff announced her intention to transition and began presenting herself as female in November 2010, three years into her tenure with the employer. She began hormone therapy just two months later and provided documentation of a legal name change in February 2011. In June of 2011, she presented a doctor’s note confirming her diagnosis of gender dysphoria and a driver’s license with her sex listed as female.
Plaintiff’s employment with Deluxe Financial ended in July 2011. On her penultimate day of work, defendant learned that plaintiff filed a discrimination claim with the EEOC. An HR representative then demanded that she sign a release as part of a severance package, but plaintiff refused.
On January 20, 2016, the court issued a consent decree in which Defendant agreed to pay $115,000 ($40,000 of which covered attorney’s fees), alter records regarding Plaintiff’s employment, and upgrade workplace policies and practices. On the personal side, Defendant agreed to issue a letter of apology to Plaintiff, not mention her prior legal name or lawsuit details in a reference, and to ensure that records show that she was laid off, not fired. On a larger scale, Defendant agreed to hire an outside consultant to revise policies to reflect, among other things: a clear commitment to preventing discrimination based on gender dysphoria and transgender status; an encouragement of persons who believe they have been discriminated against; and an assurance that Defendant will investigate allegations of discrimination. All supervising employees would then be trained annually on these commitments to ensure compliance. Defendant further committed to complying fully with employee requests for name and biographical data changes, and to allow transgender employees unhindered access to restrooms without inquiring into medical history and documentation. With the employee health plan, Defendant agreed to eliminate partial or categorical exclusions for otherwise medically necessary care solely on the basis of sex and gender dysphoria. This applied to any care that was currently available to non-transgendered persons, including hormone therapy (unless modified). Dan Hofman - 02/25/2016