A transgender nurse has been awarded $A167,902 in damages after he was banned from using a bathroom that corresponded with his gender identity.
Jesse Vroegh successfully sued the state of Iowa for discrimination, after he was forced to use the female toilet at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women where he worked as a nurse for seven years.
Mr Vroegh, who was born with female anatomy but has identified as male since he was 7, alleged that the department turned down his request to use men’s restrooms and locker rooms, and that the Iowa public employees insurance plan contained a specific exclusion that denied him health coverage for transition-related surgeries.
In his law suit, Mr Vroegh argued that he was treated differently than other male employees solely on the basis that he is transgender.
“This whole lawsuit process has been difficult and emotionally very trying,” Vroegh said in a statement.
“My life has been put under a microscope. But I do it because it’s important for all the transgender Iowans who come after me.
“I want them to be treated fair and equally.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Vroegh in the legal proceedings, described the decision as “historic”.
Vroegh’s lawsuit was the first transgender rights case to be filed in Iowa district court since the state added gender identity protections to its Civil Rights Act.
By including gender identity – or the gender a person identifies as, no matter what sex organs he or she was born with – named as a protected attribute, transgender Iowans have protections against discrimination in employment, education, employment, and accommodation.
“The import of the ruling today is that any plan that contains that coverage exclusion better beware, because this jury found that that was discriminatory,” Attorney Melissa Hasso said.
“The same is true for bathroom use,” she continued.
“You need to let transgender people use the single-sex facilities consistent with their gender identity, or face finding that you are breaking the law.”
What the law says in Australia
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan says similar discrimination laws apply in Australia.
“It is unlawful to discriminate against someone based on their gender, or gender identity, so that means you cannot treat someone less favourably because they are transgender,” he said.
“If an employer in Australia does not allow a transgender person to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, then they leave themselves wide open to legal action for discrimination.”
If you have suffered discrimination on the basis of your gender, or gender identity, you may be entitled to compensation.
For help and advice, please call our specialist team at Discrimination Claims on
1300 853 837
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