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ERISA law and gender-identity discrimination

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (commonly known as ERISA), is a federal law centering around the topics of tax and labor in the private industry. Since its establishment, ERISA has assisted employees across the country with pension and health plans. Similar to other employee benefit plans, this law equips employees with plan summaries, including fiduciary plans. While the law itself sets out to protect employees around the country, a recent incident in Texas pointed toward issues underlying these plans and how they may be more exclusive than once thought.

Bloomberg BNA produced an article earlier this year on the topic of an ERISA bias claim that stirred controversy on how the law protects certain individuals. The incident involved Aetna Life Insurance Company and an L-3 Communications Integrated Systems transgender employee who accused the the insurance company of gender-identity discrimination. Aetna allegedly denied the employee's disability benefits. Bloomberg points out that ERISA does not recognize such bias claims, but that the employee may choose to move forward with the claim to recover her benefits. The article also reveals that transgender issues have been a recent point of focus in the realm of insurance plans, and that the American Civil Liberties Union has had a hand in protecting transgender individuals in these situations. 

The details of the ERISA plan may not yet directly address the topic of transgender benefits, but if the past is any indicator of the future, the law could see a number of amendments. The United States Department of Labor clarifies that there have been a number of amendments to this federal law, broadening the scope of the protection available to health benefit plan participants and beneficiaries. The U.S. Department of Labor also provides information on the more recent adjustments that protect employees experiencing discrimination in health coverage for reasons related to an employee's health.   







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