Education

Iowa settles Iowa State transgender discrimination suit

Iowa State University logo
Iowa State University logo

The State of Iowa has agreed to pay a former Iowa State University employee $27,500 after she was denied transgender care through the school’s health insurance.

The three-person State Appeal Board, with one member absent, on Wednesday unanimously approved the settlement with Elyn Fritz-Waters, who worked at Iowa State between Feb. 1, 2010, and Feb. 7, 2017.

Fritz-Waters, who was assigned the male sex at birth, accused ISU of discrimination and violating the Iowa Civil Rights Act, Iowa Code and Iowa Constitution. Although the settlement stipulates it does not “constitute an admission of wrongdoing,” the Office of the Attorney General advised the appeal board “it is in its best interests to resolve this case without further litigation.”

Per the settlement, the state will pay Fritz-Waters $18,333 and her attorneys $9,166.

According to Fritz-Waters’ lawsuit, filed against ISU on Jan. 2, 2018, she first sought transgender care two years earlier in January 2016. She was diagnosed with gender dysphoria a month later but in March 2016 was denied coverage for gender dysphoria care through her ISU insurance.

She accused Iowa State of denying transgender employees “the same level of health care benefit coverage that it provided to non-transgender employees.” In terms of the Iowa Civil Rights Act, she accused ISU of rejecting her access to health care “based on her sex and gender identity.”

“Based on the gender discrimination, constitutional violations and violations of Iowa Code 91A, plaintiff’s working conditions became intolerable and she was forced to resign from her employment with defendant in February 2017,” according to the lawsuit.

Iowa State denied portions of the lawsuit and asked a judge to dismiss several counts. The judge granted part of ISU’s dismissal request but not its entirety.

UI Hospitals And Clinics settlement

The state also reached an agreement to pay a North Liberty couple $25,000 to settle its lawsuit over alleged negligence during a spinal surgery at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

The settlement — unanimously approved by the State Appeal Board — stipulates the UI Physicians group will contribute $12,500, with the other half coming from the state general fund.

Craig T. Olson and Patricia Stechcon sued the state in July 2018 based on Olson’s spinal surgery in December 2014. During the surgery, according to the lawsuit, he sustained “temporary and permanent injuries, scarring, deformities and disability,” including a nerve root injury.

The damage caused “past, present, and future pain and suffering, and past, present and future unnecessary hospital, medical and drug expenses,” according to the suit.

Stechcon sought damages for lost “love, society and companionship of her husband because of the negligent acts and negligent omissions” of the state in its operation of the hospitals and clinics.

The settlement notes it does not constitute an admission of guilt.

UNI settles after federal investigation

The Board of Regents earlier this year reached a settlement with former University of Northern Iowa employee Eva Garcia, who accused the institution of violating the federal Family Medical Leave Act.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division investigated UNI between June 2016 and October 2017 and found the institution “through its actions or inactions interfered with, restrained or denied her exercise of rights guaranteed by the FMLA,” according to the settlement. That included failing to grant Garcia leave and failing to restore her employment without delay.

The U.S. Department of Labor denied The Gazette’s request for more details about its investigation.

Per the settlement, UNI will pay back wages to Garcia totaling $59,688. UNI also had to provide additional training to supervisory employees in its custodial services and residence facilities administration and to human resources personnel.

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The school, per the agreement, will amend Garcia’s personnel file to reflect she retired Oct. 5, 2016.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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