Jesse Vroegh cannot use the men's bathroom or locker rooms at his work. He has also been denied certain medical benefits, solely because he is transgender.
Jesse Vroegh has worked hard at his job as a prison nurse for years, caring for others. Now all he is asking is to be treated equally in his workplace.
He has filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission in an effort to end this type of discrimination.
"In this country and in Iowa, everyone should be treated fairly in the workplace—especially when your employer is the state," says Vroegh. "Rather than setting a good example for other Iowa employers, the state has denied me the use of gendered spaces as well as the health insurance coverage I need, simply because I am transgender. I hope my fight for fairness in the workplace will make a difference for the many other transgender people who have faced similar discrimination at work."
Even after repeated requests and with the support of Jesse's union, his employer, the Department of Corrections (DOC), denied Jesse use of the men's restrooms and locker rooms sole because he is transgender. It has also denied him health care coverage for medically necessary treatment and procedures because he is transgender, even though the DOC provides coverage for similar procedures for non-transgender employees.
Instead of allowing him to use the men's bathrooms and locker rooms, as other male employees do, the DOC told Jesse he'd have to use a unisex bathroom to dress and store his belongings. It doesn't have a shower, so unlike his co-workers, Jesse can't shower at work.
While offering the option of a unisex bathroom is valuable as an option, if it is offered with a ban on using the bathrooms that matches an employee's gender, it isolates the employee and sends the message that he or she is abnormal and "less-than" colleagues.
The complaint was filed with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, the ACLU LGBT Project, and cooperating attorney Melissa Hasso with Sheridan & Hasso Law.