Universal Life Church Case Law
Phone: (614) 715-9048 Fax: (614) 715-9049
Email: info@ulccaselaw.com
ULC Case Law
1629 K Street NW, Ste 300
Washington, D.C. 20006


Iowa Decides Landmark Transgender Rights Case

April 24th, 2019

An Iowa City jury ruled in favor of a transgender employee who had faced illegal discrimination based on his sexual orientation and gender identity.

An Iowa City jury ruled in favor of a transgender employee who had faced illegal discrimination based on his sexual orientation and gender identity.

In February 2018, a jury in Iowa City ruled that an Iowa prison warden had discriminated against a transgender worker by denying the worker the ability to use any of the men’s restrooms or men’s locker rooms at the prison. Jurors in the case also found that the state executive branch had discriminated against the worker by offering medical benefits that would not pay for the expenses associated with his gender reassignment surgery. Subsequently, the eight-member jury awarded $120,000 in damages for emotional distress to the worker. This has been hailed as a landmark decision. The American Civil Liberties Union has even stated that the lawsuit is the first case related to transgender rights that has been filed since the Iowa Civil Rights Act was amended in 2007 to include discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.

How the Case Arose

In 2009, the employee who initiated the case began working in Mitchellville, Iowa as a registered nurse. The worker was viewed as a female by his employers and used both the women’s bath and locker rooms despite presenting as a male both in regards to clothing and hair style. In 2014, the employee informed his boss that he was going to begin the process of socially transitioning at work from female to male after being diagnosed with gender dysphoria. In 2015, the worker requested that he be permitted to use the men’s bathroom and locker rooms and that the prison create a policy to accommodate the rights of transgender workers.

The Employer’s Response

Because the warden at the prison was concerned about the rights of other male workers at the prison who might be uncomfortable sharing facilities with a transgender individual, he designated two single-occupancy bathrooms as gender neutral for the worker to use and informed the worker that no transgender policy would be adopted at the prison. The employee later argued that the prison’s accommodations were the equivalent of discrimination because the worker was treated differently from other employees and was required to walk outside the facility and pass through additional security whenever he used the restroom. As a result of the accommodation, the worker also argued that his male gender identity was not accepted. During this time, the health insurance company for the prison workers also refused to cover the employee’s chest surgery, which had been recommended for the man’s dysphoria. The jurors in the case have since ruled that the Department of Corrections and the warden had discriminated against the employee on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation by denying the employee the use of the men’s bathroom.

The Universal Life Church

While there have been numerous advancements in transgender rights over the last few years, there have also been several setbacks. The Universal Life Church focuses on documenting the most significant legal developments in this area.

(image courtesy of Joshua Hoehne)

Leave a Reply