TLC client Nicole Reed, left.

TLC client Nicole Reed, left.

Nicole Reed, a transgender woman and a long-time federal employee who works as an emergency dispatch operator in Texarkana, Texas, has won a settlement in her case challenging a health care denial. After her doctor recommended specific treatments for her gender dysphoria, she sought coverage for the procedures through her federal employee health benefit plan. Her request was promptly denied because the plan had an express provision that categorically denied all care related to “sex transformations.”

With the help of Transgender Law Center and the law firm of Keller Rohrback L.L.P., Nicole filed a complaint with the EEOC challenging the denial, arguing that denying transition-related health care to transgender employees is a form of discrimination prohibited under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Following EEOC mediation, Nicole has won a $50,000 settlement that will ensure she can get the health care she needs.

“No one should be denied life-saving health care simply because of outdated insurance practices,” said Nicole. “I’m relieved that this settlement will finally allow me to obtain the care I need, and I am so thankful to Transgender Law Center and Keller Rohrback for their support.”

Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center, celebrated the settlement:  “This settlement represents a tremendous step forward by the federal government in recognizing that insurance company exclusions like the one Nicole faced are unlawful, outdated, and dangerous. Transgender people should have coverage for the health care we need, just like everyone else. When we’re denied care, it can cause additional serious health problems such as stress-related physical illnesses and depression that could further endanger our health.”

Challenges like Nicole’s to federal health plan exclusions have contributed to the recent announcement that the federal government will no longer contract with insurers that exclude care for transgender employees. (Click here to read the carrier letter.) To date, thirteen states have also issued guidance confirming that such exclusions are discriminatory and unlawful. Keller Rohrback attorney Jacob Richards explained, “the clear trend at both the state and federal level is to recognize that these exclusions are discriminatory and out of step with current medical science. Until the day that all health plans provide equal coverage to transgender people, Keller Rohrback is proud to stand with organizations like Transgender Law Center in fighting to make sure that transgender people get the medical care they need and deserve.”

Transgender Law Center works to change law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression. Transgender Law Center is the leading national organization dedicated to advancing the rights of transgender and gender nonconforming people through litigation, policy advocacy, and public education.

Keller Rohrback L.L.P. is one of America’s leading class action firms handling cases for over two decades. With offices in New York, Seattle, Phoenix, Oakland, Ronan, and Santa Barbara, Keller Rohrback serves as lead and co-lead counsel in class actions throughout the country. Our Complex Litigation Group is proud to offer its expertise to clients nationwide, including playing a prominent role in employee benefits cases litigated across the country. Our trial lawyers have obtained judgments and settlements on behalf of clients in excess of seven billion dollars.

If you have experienced discrimination in accessing health care and need assistance, please contact Transgender Law Center: http://transgenderlawcenter.org/help.