Montana county to pay $66k in damages over transgender care

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A former Yellowstone County employee has been awarded $66,500 in damages because the county’s health benefits plan denied payment for gender-confirming health care, leading her to leave her job, the ACLU of Montana announced.

A Montana Human Rights Bureau administrative hearing officer awarded the damages Monday to Eleanor Anderson Maloney, a transgender woman and former prosecutor in the county attorney’s office.

Maloney filed a complaint in 2019 after she was denied health care related to sex reassignment in 2018. The county’s health insurance plan at the time expressly denied coverage for “services or supplies related to sexual reassignment and reversal of such procedures,” the bureau noted.

In June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court — in Bostock v. Clayton County — ruled that the Civil Rights Act protects employees against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

In August 2020, an administrative law judge with the Montana Human Rights Bureau ruled that the county insurance plan’s ban on coverage for gender-confirming care was illegal sexual discrimination and violated the Montana Human Rights Act.

That left just the determination of damages.

The damage award announced Monday covers lost compensation and earnings due to Maloney’s “constructive discharge,” which happens when a person resigns due to a hostile or intolerable work environment.

The county doesn’t intend to appeal the damage award, Chief Deputy County Attorney Geana Lervick said Tuesday.