A historic win for transgender rights! The Iowa Supreme Court just upheld a first-in-the-state jury verdict for our client, Jesse Vroegh, finding the State discriminated against him at work because he was transgender.
Jesse Vroegh worked as a nurse at the Iowa Department of Corrections and was denied healthcare coverage for medically necessary gender-affirming surgery because he is transgender, even though the state’s employer-provided healthcare insurance covered the same type of surgery for employees who are cisgender. He was also banned from the men’s restrooms and locker room at work.
The jury found that Vroegh was indeed discriminated against in health care coverage. The jury also found that it was illegal employment discrimination to ban Jesse from using the men’s restrooms and locker room at work, just like all his other male coworkers.
Vroegh's was the first such jury case brought under the Iowa Civil Rights Act since it was amended in 2007 to expressly prohibit discrimination against transgender people at work. The state has since started providing this coverage for all employees, as required by both state and federal nondiscrimination laws.
"This day has been a long time coming. I am so happy that my state supreme court has recognized that transgender people like me should be treated just the same as everyone else when it comes to medical care—that if a doctor says I should receive medical treatment, I get the treatment,” said Jesse.
"I want to say thank you to those who have made this victory possible,” he said. “I thank the Iowa Supreme Court for recognizing that transgender people should be treated equally under the law. I want to thank the ACLU and Melissa Hasso for representing me and helping me file this lawsuit. And I want to thank my wife, Jackie, who has stood by me and supported me in all of this. She is an amazing person."
This is a historic victory for civil rights in Iowa, because it makes real the promise of nondiscrimination protections in employment that our legislature put in place for transgender Iowans in 2007.
The state should have been a model for other employers in its treatment of a transgender worker, but instead blatantly discriminated against Jesse, who only ever asked to be treated the same as his coworkers.
We are so grateful to Jesse Vroegh, an inspiring and brave client, for taking on this first-of-its kind legal battle in our state and doing so much to build support and change hearts and minds for those who will come after him.
Jesse is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, the ACLU LGBT Project, and Melissa Hasso with the Sherinian & Hasso Law Firm in Des Moines.