Motion to Dismiss Denied in Transgender Worker’s Discrimination Case Against Turbocam, Inc., and Two Harvard Pilgrim Companies

The U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire yesterday denied a motion to dismiss Bernier v. Turbocam, in which GLAD represents Lillian Bernier, who is suing her employer Turbocam, Inc. for denying her necessary healthcare coverage related to her gender transition.

The lawsuit alleges that the exclusion of insurance coverage for Bernier’s healthcare violates federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sex and disability and New Hampshire state law prohibiting discrimination based on sex, gender identity, and disability.

In denying Turbocam’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Chief Judge Landya B. McCafferty rejected the company’s argument that it did not violate federal employment law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people, on the grounds that Turbocam ignored the Supreme Court’s Bostock v. Clayton County ruling that employment discrimination based on an individual’s transgender identity violates Title VII, as well as cases relying on Bostock to specifically hold that categorical exclusions of gender transition medical care violate Title VII.

Judge McCafferty also rejected Turbocam’s assertion that they are not in violation of federal disability laws in denying coverage for Bernier’s medical care, lifting up some of GLAD’s critical legal work on the issue, including Doe v. DOC and Williams v. Kincaid.

“Lillian Bernier is simply asking to receive the same health care coverage as her Turbocam co-workers, and we’re grateful that the Court recognized her right to pursue that outcome through this lawsuit,” said GLAD Attorney Chris Erchull, Bernier’s co-counsel. “Lillian is a dedicated employee who is paying into the company’s employee health plan, and she deserves to be treated with the same dignity, humanity, and fairness as other employees.”

GLAD filed the lawsuit on Bernier’s behalf in November 2023. Health Plans, Inc. (HPI) and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care of New England, Inc. are also named in the complaint because together they developed, administer, and operate Turbocam’s health benefits plan.

Turbocam, Inc. provides healthcare coverage to workers as part of employee compensation. Bernier has worked as a machinist at Turbocam since 2019, including continuous work through the COVID pandemic. When Bernier sought coverage for doctor-recommended healthcare, she learned that the company’s self-funded health plan does not cover any treatment related to gender transition. Such an exclusion has no medical basis.

Now that the motion to dismiss has been denied, the case will proceed to discovery and final resolution.

“Denying equal employment benefits to someone simply because they are transgender is wrong, and it violates the law,” said GLAD Senior Director of Litigation Ben Klein, co-counsel for Bernier. “Lillian Bernier deserves her day in court, and now she will have it.”

Learn more about Bernier v. Turbocam and read case documents on our website.