Kate Holt, a Springfield woman, was denied insurance coverage for medical care while employed by the City of Springfield because she is transgender. In a unanimous decision issued late last month, the Illinois Human Rights Commission recognized that Springfield’s “health plan granted coverage to employees” who were not transgender “for the same hormones that were denied” to Ms. Holt. The decision is believed to be the first to expressly confirm that excluding gender-affirming care from employee insurance plans violates Illinois’ civil rights laws, including protections for gender identity.
“I am glad that the Human Rights Commission has affirmed that my healthcare should not be denied because of my gender identity,” said Ms. Holt in reaction to the decision. “Transgender employees deserve the same protections as all other workers. The City of Springfield denied me coverage under its employee plan simply because of who I am. That was wrong.”
The charge on which the Commission ruled was filed in November 2020. When first hired by Springfield in February 2020, Ms. Holt sought coverage for medications prescribed by her physician to treat her gender dysphoria. Within a few weeks, Ms. Holt was disappointed to learn that Springfield’s plan specifically denied coverage for “sex transformation and hormones related to such treatment.” This exclusion exclusively targets employees like her who are transgender and need treatment for gender dysphoria. Ms. Holt spent months contacting the employees responsible for managing Springfield’s health-insurance plan, but her repeated requests for coverage were denied by the City at every step. Ms. Holt has since left her job at the City of Springfield.
“The Illinois Human Rights Act forbids discrimination based on gender identity—and the Commission’s decision makes clear that employers cannot adopt health-insurance plans that carve out important care for transgender employees,” said Josh Blecher-Cohen, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Illinois. “We are hopeful that the decision in Ms. Holt’s case will lead other employers across the state to reconsider their own discriminatory exclusions.”