(Cincinnati, OH, May 15, 2017) Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, along with Gerhardstein & Branch and the Law Office of Scott Knox, announce that they reached a settlement in Rachel Dovel v. The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, et al. Ms. Dovel has received insurance coverage for sex reassignment surgery, which was previously excluded under the Library’s employee health care plan. In 2016, Ms. Dovel’s only option was to take out a personal loan to cover the cost of her medically necessary sex reassignment surgery when faced with this coverage exclusion. In addition to Ms. Dovel’s health care coverage, as part of the settlement, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, where Ms. Dovel continues to work, agreed to continue to expand the Library’s efforts to build an inclusive and trans positive environment, including expanding materials on LGBT issues.
“Employers across the country should take note that denying medically necessary care for transgender employees is unlawful,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Transgender Youth Project Staff Attorney Asaf Orr. “Today, we applaud the Cincinnati public library system for choosing to do the right thing. This settlement not only rights a wrong for Ms. Dovel, it seeks to eliminate stereotypes and misinformation about the LGBT community by increasing the public library’s collection on these issues and changing its employment practices. This is a victory for all LGBT Cincinnatians.”
“We want LGBT Cincinnatians to know that we are here for you and will work to ensure that you are not the targets of workplace discrimination,” said co-counsel for Rachel Dovel Gerhardstein & Branch’s Jennifer L. Branch. “This settlement demonstrates how critical it is that we work with employers to resolve issues fairly for employees. We are proud of the steps the Cincinnati Public Library is taking to create a better city and a better workplace for the LGBT community.”
This case, filed in September 2016, argued that not covering medically necessary health care for a transgender employee constituted discrimination on the basis of sex under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause. Legal documents filed by Ms. Dovel noted that non-transgender employees received medical coverage for the same or substantially similar medical care denied to transgender employees.
Prior to filing the lawsuit, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County asserted that it’s base medical insurance plan did not provide coverage for sex reassignment surgery and that its decision not to purchase additional rider coverage outside the base plan was not discriminatory. Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the Library’s health insurer announced it would offer coverage for sex reassignment surgery under the base plan. The Library immediately moved up its re-enrollment date by 8 months to provide coverage for sex reassignment surgery under its base plan. “We were within our rights to consider the impact of adding coverage on the health insurance premiums of all our employees when looking at adding coverage that would have benefited only one. We are glad Anthem ultimately added this coverage to our base plan, and glad to have reached a happy resolution with our employee Ms. Dovel,” said Andrea Kaufman, Human Resources Director at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
“I am pleased that we were able to resolve this case, which affects not just me but current and future employees and their families who may need access to transition-related care,” said plaintiff Rachel Dovel. “Through the settlement, the Library recognizes the importance of providing transgender employees with access to medically necessary transition-related care and has committed to concrete steps to ensure that it is meeting the needs of it LGBT employees and patrons.”