Rachel Dovel has worked at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County for over 10 years.  Although given the gender of male at birth, she identifies as a woman.  In 2015 she told her co-workers and supervisors she was transitioning her outer appearance into closer alignment with her gender identity.  After her doctors recommended that Ms. Dovel have sex reassignment surgery, Ms. Dovel let her employer and its health insurance provider, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, know she needed surgery.  Anthem denied coverage for her surgery because its health insurance policy with the Library excludes sex transformation medical coverage. Anthem’s policy violates the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) anti-discrimination provision.

The Library Board of Trustees could have changed its health insurance policy with Anthem, but voted twice to deny Ms. Dovel health insurance coverage because she is a transgender woman.  The Library’s denial of benefits to Ms. Dovel is also discriminatory.

Ms. Dovel cannot wait for the Library or Anthem to end their discriminatory policies.  She plans to secure a personal loan and incur debt so she can pay for the surgery herself.  She brings this lawsuit to end discrimination by insurance providers and employers.

“It is time for blatant discrimination against transgender employees to end.  A government employer, like the Public Library, knows it cannot discriminate against its transgender employees; but yet it continues to deny Ms. Dovel necessary medical treatment.  Ms. Dovel approached the Board of Trustees a number of times in the last year to cover her medically necessary surgery.  When the Library denied her coverage and Anthem excluded the coverage from its policy, Rachel had no choice but to seek compensation for her estimated $25,000 in out of pocket medical expenses.  It is only fair that an employee’s medical treatment be covered regardless of the employee’s sex or medical condition,”  said Jennifer Branch, attorney for Rachel Dovel.

Scott Knox, who is also representing Ms. Dovel said, “I have seen discrimination against transgender employees for decades and how damaging it is to both the employee and the company.  Even before the law in this area progressed, employers in Cincinnati and Ohio learned that they attract and retain the best employees by respecting their transgender employees by prohibiting discrimination at work and providing healthcare coverage for their medical needs, including the City of Cincinnati,[1] the City of Columbus, Procter & Gamble,[2] Fifth Third Bank, Macy’s, and Convergys.  The Public Library needs to follow the law and value its employees.”

[1] For a complete list of municipalities that provide healthcare benefits to transgender employees visit: http://www.hrc.org/resources/mei-2015-see-your-citys-score 

[2] For a complete list of employers who score 100 on the Human Rights Campaign 2016 corporate index visit: http://hrc-assets.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com//files/assets/resources/CEI-2016-FullReport.pdf

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