SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) –A transgender man trying to attain sex reassignment surgery filed a civil rights complaint Monday against his employer, Dignity Health, alleging that his employer discriminated against him for being transgender and violated the Affordable Care Act when it deprived him of medical care for gender dysphoria.
San Francisco-based Dignity Health, which until 2012 was named Catholic Healthcare West, is America’s fifth largest health system and allegedly refuses to cover treatment of gender dysphoria, including sex reassignment surgery.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint on Josef Robinson’s behalf in federal court in San Francisco, accusing Dignity Health of sex discrimination against the transgender man and Dignity Health employee, as well as violation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Robinson, a nurse at Dignity Health’s Chandler Regional Medical Center in Arizona, was born female but identifies as male, and alleges in the complaint that Dignity Health “singles out transgender employees for unequal treatment by categorically depriving them of all medical care for gender dysphoria, a serious medical condition…”
Although Robinson’s employer-provided health care coverage through United Healthcare includes treatment of gender dysphoria, Robinson’s employer, Dignity Health, excluded treatment for gender dysphoria from its employee’s health care coverage plan, leaving Robinson to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for his treatment, according to the complaint.
In August 2015, Robinson paid approximately $7,450 out of pocket for a double mastectomy that Dignity Health excluded from its employees’ health care plan. He has also had to forego some medically necessary care entirely, according to the complaint.
As of Monday, the complaint states,”Robinson does not have sufficient funds to pay for the phalloplasty out of pocket.”
In response to CBS San Francisco’s request for comment from Dignity Health regarding the ACLU complaint on behalf of Robinson and Dignity Health employee health coverage, the company stated:
“Dignity Health is committed to a work environment free from discrimination and respects the human dignity of everyone. We are aware of the complaint and take this matter very seriously. We are currently conducting our own internal evaluation and do not comment on matters of pending litigation.”
Robinson’s fiance, who also works for Dignity Health, emailed Dignity Health’s CEO Lloyd Dean in September 2015 asking him to remove the sex transformation exclusion from the employees’ health care plan. Dean shared the request with Dignity Health’s Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Daryll Robinson, who emailed the plaintiff’s fiance saying, “With specific intent, we deliberated whether our existing policies were discriminatory and inconsistent with our organization values as you stated in your letter. We found no evidence of discriminatory practice in the employee benefit plan documents, internal practice or the administration of the plan.”
The ACLU filed a separate complaint against Dignity Health in December 2015, claiming that Dignity Health is using Catholic Directives to deny patients basic reproductive health care. The California Medical Association agreed and has filed a motion to intervene as a plaintiff in that lawsuit.
The Catholic Directives, written by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, prohibit a range of health care services. One of the directives states that abortion is never permitted.
Dignity Health operates 39 hospitals across three states – 22 of which are Catholic-based facilities – according to Dignity Health’s website.
By Hannah Albarazi – Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.