The Minnesota Department of Human Rights and Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a lawsuit Thursday against CSL Plasma for turning away a transgender donor.
According to a press release, Alice James, a biological male, began donating plasma in 2011 at the company’s collection center in Duluth, but was required to list their biological sex on an intake form. James, however, refused, and continued to identify as female on all company forms.
Then, in June 2015, James was told by an employee that CSL Plasma did not allow transgender individuals to donate and prohibited James from making any further donations. As a result, James filed a discrimination complaint with the Department of Human Rights, which found “probable cause” that CSL Plasma discriminated against James in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
“Refusing to allow James to donate her plasma solely based on her gender identity is unlawful and constitutes a clear violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Our agency is committed to ensuring that the civil rights of all Minnesotans, including transgender and gender nonconforming individuals, are upheld so they can thrive and succeed,” Deputy Commissioner Irina Vaynerman said Thursday.
The lawsuit, filed in Minnesota’s Fourth Judicial District Court in Hennepin County, accuses CSL Plasma of discriminating “against James in a place of public accommodation on the basis of her sexual orientation.”
“It is an unfair discriminatory practice for a person engaged in business or in the provision of a service to intentionally refuse to do business with, or to refuse to contract with, a person because of that person’s sexual orientation unless the alleged refusal or discrimination is because of a legitimate business purpose,” the lawsuit continues.
The lawsuit would require CSL Plasma to “compensate James in an amount up to three times the actual damages sustained as well as damages for mental anguish and suffering.”
Additionally, CSL Plasma would be forced to pay a civil penalty to the state, begin offering “sexual orientation discrimination” trainings to employees, submit quarterly reports to the state, and reimburse the Attorney General’s Office for “all appropriate investigation, litigation, and hearing costs.”
“As the people’s lawyer, my job is to protect all Minnesotans, no exceptions,” Ellison said Thursday. “State law gives the Department of Human Rights and my office the power to protect transgender folks’ right to live with dignity, safety, and respect, and we’re using that power today. I’ll use it whenever I need to make sure that there are no exceptions to the rule that transgender people count, transgender people matter.”
CSL Plasma has thus far declined to comment, and refused to settle the case through the Department of Human Rights’ conciliation process.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Hennepin County District Court–Brookdale” by McGhiever. CC BY-SA 4.0.