Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Tovar v. Essentia Health: Title VII Only Prohibits Sex Discrimination Against Employees

In Tovar v. Essentia Health, No. 16-3186 (May 24, 2017), the Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Brittany Tovar's claim that she was subjected to sex discrimination in violation of Title VII and the Minnesota Human Rights Act when her employer refused to cover medical expenses related to her son's gender dysphoria. As I discussed in a previous post and the Eighth Circuit confirmed, Title VII only prohibits discrimination against an employee because of his or her own protected status. Thus, even assuming that excluding coverage of expenses related to Tovar's son's gender dysphoria constituted sex discrimination, it constituted sex discrimination against Tovar's son, not Tovar. This is because the result would have been the same even if Tovar had been male. Similarly, as reflected in EEOC's  Questions and Answers on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, although an employer may not exclude the pregnancy-related conditions of employees, it is not required by Title VII to cover "the pregnancy-related conditions of [non-spousal] dependents as long as it excludes the pregnancy-related conditions of the dependents of male and female employees equally." 29 C.F.R. § 1604 Appendix, Q&A 21.

Of course, even if Title VII (or the MHRA) does not provide coverage, that does not rule out the possibility that Tovar (or her son) might have a claim under another federal, state, or local law (like the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits sex discrimination).

This blog reflects the views solely of its author. It is not intended, and should not be regarded, as legal advice on how to analyze any particular set of facts.