BILLINGS — It was a big win for equal rights after a Billings transgender woman was awarded nearly $67,000 in a discrimination case against Yellowstone County.
Eleanor Maloney filed a complaint against Yellowstone County in 2019 when she worked as a deputy prosecutor handling abuse and neglect cases for the county.
Fast forward three years and she no longer works for Yellowstone County, having left her job because of the discrimination she endured. However, she’s been compensated by her former employer.
“Employers cannot discriminate against individuals based on their transgender status,” said Legal Director of ACLU Montana, Alex Rate.
For Maloney, it all began back in 2019 when she filed a complaint with the Montana Human Rights Bureau. She claimed the county and county commissioners violated her human rights by denying her healthcare for sexual reassignment procedures and medications.
Maloney is transgender, meaning she was assigned the sex of male at birth but she identifies as female.
“It would be the same as if a pregnant employee was denied prenatal care for no other reason than being pregnant,” Rate said.
In August, an administrative judge with the Human Rights Bureau ruled that Yellowstone County violated Maloney’s rights and committed unlawful sex discrimination. On Monday, she was officially awarded $66,531.94. The Human Rights Bureau is responsible for administering such fines to employers on behalf of the state's Department of Labor and Industries.
The Human Rights Bureau says that the award was to compensate Maloney for lost wages, saying she was “constructively discharged from her job.”
“This was the first case in Montana that held that discrimination on the basis of sex includes transgender status and transgender identity,” said Rate.
The ACLU believes Maloney’s case will have a wide-ranging impact. The attorney representing the county, Jeana Lervick, provided a statement to MTN:
“The ruling clarified an undoubtedly gray area for most employers, and certainly for the county when it came to benefits like its publicly funded health insurance plan.”
MTN asked to speak with Maloney but she declined our request. However, she told the ACLU she’s thrilled with the outcome, according to Rate.
“Individuals who have the courage of their convictions like Eleanor will continue to stand up and push back,” Rate said.