March 3, 2020

Christopher Vasquez, NCLR Communications Director
415.365.1337 | cvasquez@nclrights.org

Parties Settle Landmark Lawsuit by Transgender Employee Who Was Unlawfully Denied Medically Necessary Care

PORTLAND, ORToday, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, along with Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and Meyer Stephenson, announced a settlement on behalf of Christina Ketcham, a transgender woman whose employer-provided health insurance excluded coverage for medically necessary facial feminization surgery.

Clatsop County, Ms. Ketcham’s former employer, and CityCounty Insurance Services of Oregon, the public entity that provided the health insurance benefits, agreed to pay $345,000 in damages, including $40,000 to cover Ms. Ketcham’s facial feminization surgery. Clatsop also agreed to place Ms. Ketcham on administrative leave with full pay until she reached retirement age in June 2020.

The discrimination claims against Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, the insurance-plan administrator, are still pending before the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon for the County of Multnomah.

For years, Ms. Ketcham has experienced significant distress from the incongruence between her female gender identity and her typically masculine facial features, which has exacerbated her gender dysphoria. Consistent with the standards of care, Ms. Ketcham’s treating physicians determined that facial feminization surgery is medically necessary. Ms. Ketcham’s health insurance provider repeatedly denied her requests for coverage because her health insurance policy categorically excluded coverage for facial feminization procedures. On July 18, 2019, Ms. Ketcham sued Clatsop, CIS, and Regence for violating Oregon’s anti-discrimination laws and the Oregon Constitution.

“This settlement puts employers on notice that health insurance plans provided to employees must cover medically necessary treatments for gender dysphoria, or they are risking significant legal liability,” said Asaf Orr, Senior Staff Attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “We look forward to continuing to vindicate Ms. Ketcham’s right to equal treatment under Oregon law.”

“Denying a transgender employee coverage for medically necessary treatments not only exposes employers to legal liability, but also undermines an employer’s ability to recruit and retain the best employees, which includes transgender employees,” said Jyotin Hamid, Partner at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. The Debevoise team is co-led by Morgan A. Davis and Justin R. Rassi.

“Oregon law has had strong legal protections for transgender people for many years,” said Talia Y. Guerriero, Of Counsel at Meyer Stephenson, “and we are pleased that those laws keep Oregon at the forefront of safeguarding the right of transgender employees to be free from discrimination at work, including in employment benefits.”

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The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. Since its founding, NCLR has maintained a longstanding commitment to racial and economic justice and the LGBTQ community’s most vulnerable. https://www.nclrights.org