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Exclusive: Collin Co. Woman Sues Employer, Insurance Co. For Discrimination

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ALLEN (CBS11) - A Collin County woman is suing her employer, L-3 Communications and its insurance company, Aetna for employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

The federal lawsuit may be the first of its kind because it also accuses Aetna of violating a provision of the Affordable Care Act, which says federal contractors and subcontractors can't discriminate based on gender identity.

Charlize Baker of Allen says in 2011, she began her transition from a man to a woman.

To treat her diagnosis of gender dysphoria, she says her doctor and psychologist said it was medically necessary for her to have breast augmentation surgery.

She says, "It's an essential part of my outward expression of being female."

In March, she had the procedure.

But she says Aetna wouldn't pay for that or for her short term disability. "I felt very demeaned and demoralized."

Aetna's policy covers genital reconstructive surgery and hormone replacement therapy for both sexes.

It also covers a mastectomy for women transitioning to men, but it considers breast augmentation for those transitioning from men to women a cosmetic procedure.

When asked how she would respond to those who say they agree with the insurance company and that she should pay for the procedure herself, Baker said, "I don't understand what the discrepancy is, why would you cover one and not the other?"

Baker's attorney, Michael Hindman of Dallas says, "When they don't want to pay for something, they go back 20 years and find an article and say you don't need to do this., it's not medically necessary."

L-3 Communications says as a matter of policy, it doesn't comment on legal matters.

Aetna says it hasn't been served with the lawsuit yet, but will certainly review it.

Baker has worked at L-3 Communications, a military contractor, for seven years.

Just last month, she says she received a promotion from machinist to quality inspector.

She says her company has been very supportive. "They're sympathetic, but they're not going to challenge Aetna."

Baker wants to be reimbursed for the procedure and compensated for short term disability.

She is also asking for punitive damages, as an incentive for Aetna to change its policy.

If necessary, she and her attorney say they will take this case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. "I think there's a greater cause here. It's not just about me, it's about everyone. All we're asking for is a little dignity."

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