SPRINGFIELD – The Springfield City Council on Tuesday voted to approve a settlement in a complaint filed in 2020 over the denial of gender-affirming health care to a former City employee. Under terms of the settlement, Springfield will pay $95,000 to the former employee for the harm she suffered as well as legal fees. 

The settlement will be paid to Kate Holt who was denied insurance coverage for life-saving medical care while employed by the City of Springfield because she is transgender. The resolution comes after the Illinois Human Rights Commission unanimously ruled for Ms. Holt in February 2022 that discrimination in health care coverage for employees who are transgender can violate state law. The decision is the first time that excluding gender-affirming care from employee insurance plans was declared to violate Illinois’ civil rights law, including protections for sex and gender identity.

In October of the same year, Springfield changed its health insurance plan for employees to cover gender-affirming care.

“The settlement approved by the Council is a win for me – and for every transgender employee across Illinois,” Ms. Holt said in response to the vote. “It brings closure to my personal struggle after Springfield denied me coverage simply because of who I am. That was wrong.”

“But this outcome also sends a strong signal to all employers including towns, cities, and counties across Illinois that they are violating the law if they do not provide coverage for gender-affirming care for their employees.” 

The original charge against the City of Springfield was filed by Ms. Holt in November 2020. When first hired by Springfield in February 2020, Ms. Holt sought coverage for medications and other medical care prescribed by her physician to treat her gender dysphoria. Within a few weeks, Ms. Holt was shocked to learn that Springfield’s plan specifically denied coverage for “sex transformation and hormones related to such treatment.” This exclusion targeted employees like her who are transgender since the same medications were approved for other employees. Ms. Holt spent months contacting the employees responsible for managing Springfield’s health insurance plan and told the City that its plan violated the Illinois Human Rights Act, but her repeated requests for coverage were denied by the City at every step.

“With attacks on transgender folks across the country – attacks not only on who we are but on the health care we need – so prevalent, it is heartening to see that Illinois provides critical and much-needed protections,” added Ms. Holt. “Illinois proudly declares that we do not discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community. That must include coverage of health care needs.” 

“We are pleased for Kate that after a four-year battle, this matter has been successfully resolved,” added Michelle Garcia, deputy legal director at the ACLU of Illinois who represents Ms. Holt. “Even before we filed this case, we knew that employers including towns, cities, and counties across the state were denying insurance coverage for transgender employees. But this is important life-saving health care. This settlement should send a clear signal that discriminatory health insurance plans like the one that Springfield had must be changed immediately and that there are significant costs if they do not do so.”