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Madia Law Client Alice James to Join State Lawsuit Against CSL Plasma for Discriminatory Ban on Transgender Donors

(Minneapolis; March 7, 2019)—Alice James will join Attorney General Keith Ellison and Department of Human Rights (MDHR) Commissioner Rebecca Lucero in suing a plasma collection company for its discriminatory ban on donations by transgender persons.

In 2011, Ms. James began donating plasma at CSL Plasma locations in Minnesota. For nearly four years, CSL refused to acknowledge Ms. James’ gender identity. In 2015, CSL stopped allowing Ms. James to donate plasma, citing a company policy barring transgender persons from making such donations. That policy violates the Minnesota Human Rights Act. In 2016, Ms. James filed a discrimination complaint with the MDHR. That complaint led to the lawsuit filed this week by the MDHR and Attorney General.

Minnesota has long been a leader in rejecting unfounded and overly simplistic notions regarding gender. In 1975, the Minneapolis became the first government in the nation to outlaw gender identity discrimination. In 1993, Minnesota was the first state to do so.

In the 43 years since Minneapolis led the way, our collective understanding of gender has grown substantially, and dozens of states and localities now ban businesses from discriminating simply because a person’s gender differs from the one assigned at birth.

Said Joshua Newville, one of Ms. James’ lawyers: “CSL brazenly ignores these laws and bans all transgender persons from donating plasma purely on account of their transgender status. There is no legitimate justification for such a ban. We look forward to joining this lawsuit and to working with the Attorney General and the Commissioner. We are also grateful for their support.”

Said Ms. James: “I am proud to live in a state where the law demands that people be treated fairly. I hope this case helps to ensure fair treatment for other Minnesotans.”

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights is suing a self-proclaimed “leader in plasma collection” for allegedly discriminating against a transgender woman who was banned from donating because of her gender identity.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is expected to file the lawsuit Thursday on behalf of the department against CSL Plasma Inc., which identifies itself as “one of the world’s largest collectors of human plasma.”


“Obviously, anyone’s gender identity is a core component of who they are, and we want to make sure that the core component of who they are is protected and celebrated,” said Irina Vaynerman, the department’s deputy commissioner of human rights.

CSL Plasma Inc. declined to comment Thursday.
“Since the matter is in litigation, we will have no comment as we have not yet been served with the suit,” the company said in a written statement.


The department is suing in response to a complaint filed by Minneapolis resident Alice James, whose attorney said he expects her to also join the suit as a plaintiff.


“I am proud to live in a state where the law demands that people be treated fairly,” James said in a written statement provided by her attorney. “I hope this case helps to ensure fair treatment for other Minnesotans.”

James would not be speaking with the media about her experience with CSL Plasma, said her attorney, Joshua Newville.


“Although she is very interested in the outcome of this matter and seeing justice done for both herself and others in the state of Minnesota, she doesn’t really want this case focused on her,” Newville said. “She wants this case focused on CSL Plasma and the broader understanding of gender identity.”


James was a regular donor at CSL Plasma for years and relied on it as part of her income until the company told her in 2015 that it did not accept donations from transgender people, Newville said.


“That had a pretty catastrophic impact on her both financially and emotionally,” he said. “That sort of conduct can’t stand, especially in places like Minnesota, and I hope this lawsuit will make that clear.”
According to Newville: James was living in Duluth in 2011 when she began donating plasma at the company’s location there. She identified herself as a woman, but the facility “rejected” that and forced her to identify as a man in their records.

James donated plasma a few times a week throughout the years in Duluth. In 2015, she pushed the company to identify her as a woman in their records. At some point after that, her attorney said, she was told she could no longer donate because of her gender identity.


James filed a discrimination complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights in 2016, which investigated and found in 2017 that the allegation had merit.


The department tried to initiate settlement talks with CSL Plasma Inc. that included recommended policy changes, but the company refused to engage, Vaynerman said.


The company reported that it had “a flat ban on all transgender donors,” Vaynerman said, adding that its refusal to engage in settlement talks compelled the lawsuit.


The company’s practice flies in the face of FDA recommendations, which allow donors to self-report their gender and recommends “screening out only men who have had sex with other men once or more in the past year,” the lawsuit said.

James never met that criterion for being screened out, her attorney said.
Newville said James attempted to donate plasma in October 2018 at a Minneapolis location. She was denied again, and the company stopped responding to Newville’s queries.


“She was told there is indeed a policy in place — and I was told this by their attorneys as well … that bans transgender persons from donating plasma,” Newville said. “They have not really explained their rational or justification behind it.”


The company’s alleged actions are especially egregious, he said, because in 1975, Minneapolis became the nation’s first governmental body to make discrimination based on gender identity illegal, and in 1993, Minnesota was the first state in the country to do the same.


The state’s lawsuit is asking that a judge: Find CSL Plasma in violation of the state anti-discrimination law, financially compensate James “up to three times the actual damages sustained as well as damages for mental anguish and suffering,” require the company to pay a civil penalty to the state, order their employees to undergo training on discrimination, submit quarterly reports regarding its deferral of transgender donors at its Minnesota locations and reimburse the Department of Human Rights and the state Attorney General’s Office for expenses.

According to the company’s website, CSL Plasma is headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla., and is a division of CSL Behring of Pennsylvania. The parent company, CSL Limited (ASX: CSL), is headquartered in Melbourne, Australia.

Twitter: @ChaoStrib