A Texas federal judge dismissed claims alleging gender identity
discrimination asserted under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) against an insurer and employer because
there is no precedent that either act recognizes any such claim. But the
employee’s claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was
allowed to proceed.
Image source: http://blog.hrusa.com/blog/title-vii-safe-harbor-provision-precludes-employees-from-proving-disparate-impact-theory-discrimination-claims-based-on-different-treatment-in-different-locations/
Charlize Marie Baker was employed by L-3 Communications
Integrated Systems LP and insured under its health plan and short-term
disability plan, administered by Aetna Life Insurance Co. In 2011, Baker began
transitioning from male to female. She legally changed her name and changed her
gender designation from male to female on all government-issued documents.
In 2015, a health care professional deemed it medically
necessary that Baker undergo breast implant surgery in order to treat her
gender dysphoria. Baker scheduled surgery and sought benefits from Aetna under
the health plan to cover her post-surgery recovery. Aetna denied her claim,
precipitating Baker filing a lawsuit in a Texas federal court alleging that
Aetna and L-3 discriminated against her based on her gender identity in
violation of the ACA, that Aetna denied her benefits under the short-term
disability plan in violation of ERISA, and that Aetna and L-3 violated Title
VII by discriminating against her based on her sex. Aetna and L-3 asked
the court to dismiss Baker’s discrimination claims.
The court determined that the claim under the ACA must be
dismissed because Baker failed to cite any authority that recognizes a cause of
action under the ACA for discrimination based on gender identity. For the same
reason, the court dismissed Baker’s ERISA claim. Finally, regarding Baker’s
Title VII claim, the court dismissed the claim against Aetna because it was not
Baker’s employer but held that the claim, as it pertains to L-3, could move
forward because she had sufficiently alleged in her complaint that she was
denied employee benefits from L-3 due to her sex.
Professional Pointer: This case is a vivid reminder of how important it is for
employers to remain cognizant of the societal evolution of transgender rights
and how it may impact their workforce. A prudent employer should carefully
evaluate any and all claims brought by employees who are transgender to ensure
that any action taken in connection therewith is gender-neutral.
it is especially important that your business pays attention to changes in
employment law. You want to make sure that your employees feel respected and
supported in the workplace. Any issues should be addressed as soon as they
occur. If you aren’t positive that your HR department is prepared, reach out to
Converge HR Solutions. Our team of experts is trained in all aspects of HR, including
employee relations. We can ensure that you stay compliant, and avoid any
possible lawsuits. Visit our website for more information https://convergehrsolutions.com/. Contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-296-8550.