Billings, MT (January 24, 2022) Today, Eleanor Andersen Maloney, a transgender woman, has been awarded compensation after having been denied all gender-affirming healthcare under Yellowstone County’s health benefits plan.
On August 14th, 2020, an Administrative Law Judge at the Montana Human Rights Bureau ruled that Yellowstone County’s categorical ban on coverage for gender affirming care constitutes unlawful sex discrimination and therefore violates the Montana Human Rights Act.
Today, the Montana Department of Labor and Industry Office of Administrative Hearings awarded Eleanor compensation for the discrimination she endured while working for Yellowstone County. In short, as a result of the ban on gender affirming care, Ms. Maloney was “constructively discharged” and is therefore entitled to lost compensation and earnings. The Hearing Officer awarded Ms. Maloney $66,531.94 in damages.
“I'm grateful that the rights of LGBTQIA+ Montanans are vindicated today," said Eleanor Andersen Maloney.
Across the country, states are issuing guidances confirming that such exclusions like in the case of Eleanor are discriminatory and unlawful. Montana’s Medicaid policy explicitly covers gender-affirming health care for transgender people. Twenty states, in addition to the District of Columbia, have also issued guidance confirming that such exclusions are discriminatory and unlawful. The Federal Government has not contracted with insurers that exclude care for transgender employees since Jan. 1, 2016, because those exclusions are unlawful.
“Today’s decision should stand as a clear warning to any county that seeks to deny medically necessary health care to transgender Montanans,” said Alex Rate, legal director at ACLU-MT. “These provisions are blatantly discriminatory and cannot stand.”
“Eleanor’s victory should send a message to policymakers and employers around the country that denying health care to transgender people is costly,” said Malita Picasso, staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “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.”