The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (DHR) has accused CSL Plasma of demonstrating a “pattern of discrimination” after it turned away a second donor because of the donor’s gender identity.
The department’s lawsuit against CSL Plasma was first filed in March after Alice James, a biological male, submitted a discrimination complaint with DHR. James began donating plasma in 2011 at the company’s collection center in Duluth, but was required to list a biological sex on an intake form.
James “returned to self-identifying as female” rather than male in 2015 and was promptly “locked out of the CSL Plasma kiosk check in.” James moved back to Minneapolis in 2016 and attempted to donate plasma at the company’s Minneapolis location but was informed “that she continued to be permanently deferred.”
The Minnesota DHS picked up the case after finding “probable cause” that CSL Plasma violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act when it discriminated against James.
The agency announced earlier this month that it has amended its lawsuit to include a second party, Charlie Edgar, a “person of non-binary gender identity” who identifies as “genderqueer.”
Edgar, a biological female, began the process of donating plasma in September, but CSL Plasma “would not allow Edgar to donate plasma because of Edgar’s gender identity.”
“Defendant’s employee left and returned with a manager, who told Edgar that they could not ‘self-identify’ their gender and that Edgar could not identify as a ‘female’ according to their birth certificate,” the amended lawsuit states.
A press release from DHR claims that CSL Plasma required Edgar to leave its premises and prohibited Edgar from donating because “their gender identity does not align with their assigned sex at birth.” The company’s management “repeatedly upheld this decision,” according to DHR.
The second complaint comes after CSL Plasma claimed it “updated its policies.”
“I am disheartened that I have to fight to be seen as a human being,” Edgar said in a statement. “I was hurt and embarrassed when I was denied to give plasma at CSL. I want to be able to operate in a world where I don’t always have to teach medical professionals how to treat me and wonder how to pay my bills when I can’t access the same services as low income cisgender folks.”
The lawsuit notes that the FDA updated its nonbinding guidance on donor suitability in 2015 to recommend allowing people to “self-report gender” and “screening out only men who have had sex with other men once or more in the past year.”
In both cases, the suit accuses CSL Plasma of public accommodation discrimination and business discrimination.
CSL Plasma allegedly “refused to work” with DHR on the case, which is why the agency filed suit in March.
“CSL Plasma is unlawfully turning away donors based on archaic stereotypes,” said Minnesota DHR Deputy Commissioner Irina Vaynerman. “Today’s announcement demonstrates the vital work ahead in the courts and in our communities to ensure all Minnesotans can live dignified lives.”
The lawsuit asks the court to require CSL Plasma to implement policies and procedures that adhere to the Minnesota Human Rights Act, require employees to undergo training to ensure gender identity is not considered when assessing donor eligibility, and compensate any individual who was discriminated against because of their gender identity.
The lawsuit was filed in Minnesota’s Fourth Judicial District Court in Hennepin County and Attorney General Keith Ellison is representing the department in the case.
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