A jury on Wednesday awarded a
transgender man $120,000 in a discrimination lawsuit against his
former employer, the Iowa Department of Corrections.
Jesse Vroegh, 37, worked as a nurse for
about seven years at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women.
Jurors found that the state
discriminated against Vroegh, denying him use of the men's restroom
and locker room at work as well as denying him insurance coverage for
medically necessary surgery.
“The whole process has been difficult
and emotionally very trying for me,” said Vroegh. “My life has
been put under a microscope because of this case. But I thought it
was an important thing to do for the transgender Iowans who come
after me. I hope this decision means that we will be treated fairly
in the future.”
Vroegh was represented by the American
Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Iowa.
“Transgender Iowans deserve the same
dignity, respect, and access to health care and gender-appropriate
restroom and locker room facilities as any other person,” said John
Knight, an attorney with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project. “For
many years, the law in Iowa has said that employers cannot
discriminate on the basis of sex, and it has also barred gender
identity discrimination since 2007. The state should have been a
model for other employers in its treatment of transgender workers.
Instead, it blatantly discriminated against Jesse Vroegh. The jury in
this case obviously saw that what the state did was wrong and should
never happen again.”
Vroegh, who said that he has identified
as male since he was 7, informed his employer that he was
transitioning in 2014. He was told to use a unisex facility which
did not include a shower. Vroegh no longer works for the state.
The ACLU said that the case was “the
first transgender rights case to be filed in Iowa district court
since Iowa added gender identity protections to the Iowa Civil Rights
Act in 2007.”