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Transgender woman awarded $66K in Yellowstone County discrimination case

Posted at 9:33 AM, Jan 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-25 13:16:54-05

BILLINGS - A former Yellowstone County employee has been awarded $66,000 in compensation following a 2020 ruling that Yellowstone County and Yellowstone County Board of Commissioners discriminated against the transgender woman on the basis of sex when denying her medical coverage for gender-affirming care.

In 2020, an Administrative Law Judge at the Montana Human Rights Bureau ruled the county violated the Montana Human Rights Act by “implementing and administering (a healthcare plan) that expressly denies coverage for ‘services or supplies related to sexual reassignment and reversal of such procedures.'”

On Monday, the Montana Department of Labor and Industry Office of Administrative Hearings awarded the former Yellowstone County employee, Eleanor Maloney, $66,531.94 in damages for the discrimination she faced while working for the county.

“I’m grateful that the rights of LGBTQIA+ Montanans are vindicated today,” Maloney said in a press release from the ACLU of Montana announcing the decision.

RELATED: Montana Human Rights Bureau rules Yellowstone County discriminated against transgender employee

Eleanor Maloney, a former deputy county prosecutor, was denied health-insurance benefits for medical costs related to her gender transition procedure.

In the 2018 complaint, the ACLU argued that Maloney was denied all gender-affirming healthcare under Yellowstone County’s Group Health Benefit Plan while employed as a Senior Deputy County Attorney. Maloney was represented by Alex Rate, legal director of the ACLU of Montana and Malita Picasso of the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project.

“Today’s decision should stand as a clear warning to any county that seeks to deny medically necessary health care to transgender Montanans,” Rate said in the press release. “These provisions are blatantly discriminatory and cannot stand.”

Yellowstone County officials were not immediately available for comment.

Along with the damages awarded to Maloney, the court directed the county to:

  • Discontinue enforcement of the exclusionary provision in the Plan found to be discriminatory.
  • Identify its current management and supervisory employees with responsibility for oversight and identify appropriate transgender discrimination training that meets the approval of HRB.
  • Work with an attorney familiar with transgender discrimination issues to create and review for improvement policies and notices regarding transgender discrimination that comply with the MHRA and GCFP.

“Eleanor’s victory should send a message to policymakers and employers around the country that denying health care to transgender people is costly,” Picasso said in the press release. “No employee should have to tolerate being denied insurance coverage for their medically necessary health care solely because they are transgender.”