Transgender UGA employee sues over ‘discriminatory’ health care benefits policy

A University of Georgia employee who appeared on a recent episode of a Netflix reality show is suing his employer, the University System of Georgia, the university’s healthcare providers and administrators over health care guidelines he believes are discriminatory to him and other transgender workers.

The employee, who goes by the name Skyler Jay, said he was denied reimbursement for a May 2017 surgery to treat gender dysphoria, described by medical organizations as a conflict between a person's physical or assigned gender and the gender with which the person identifies.

Jay appealed the denial, but said his health insurance provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield, refused his appeal because the plan is self-insured and had “no flexibility” to override the plan exclusion. Jay said University System of Georgia (USG) leaders denied his request to discuss the dispute.

“The fact that transgender employees are not able to access medically necessary care while non-transgender employees have their medically necessary care covered evidences a disparate impact on a protected class,” Jay’s attorneys wrote in the complaint.

Jay created a GoFundMe page to pay for his medical expenses. He filed a claim with his insurance company for about $8,300.

Noah E. Lewis, an attorney for Jay, said in a telephone interview Tuesday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that several colleges and universities and major employers do not deny benefits for such surgeries. The university and its healthcare providers wrongly excludes transgender workers from such benefits, Jay’s legal team says.

“We would like them to remove the exclusions,” Lewis said of the USG.

The USG declined comment on the lawsuit, a spokeswoman said Tuesday. The lawsuit was filed last month in the U.S. District Court’s Middle District.

Jay, a catering and banquets manager at UGA, began working there in 2013 after enrolling as a female student in 2009. Jay publicly came out as a man and socially transitioned from female to male.

Jay appeared on a recent episode of “Queer Eye,” a show where five men described as the “Fab Five,” advise men on fashion, grooming, food, culture and design.