By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has filed a lawsuit against a national plasma donation company for barring a transgender woman from giving.

According to the lawsuit, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights alleges the donation center unlawfully denied Alice James, a transgender woman, from donating because of her gender identity.

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“At the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, our agency is committed to ensuring that the civil rights of all Minnesotans, including transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, are protected,” said Irina Vaynerman, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

Court documents state James began donating plasma at CSL Plasma’s Duluth location around March 2011 without incident until June 2015. When James began donating, the lawsuit says CSL Plasma required her to identify as biologically male. James returned to self-identifying as a female in June 2015.

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On June 28, 2015, James says she was informed by a CSL Plasma employee that the donation center did not permit donations from transgender persons and prohibited her from donating. In February 2016, James filed a discrimination charge with DHR, and DHR investigated the allegations.

“Transgender members of our community are fully-fledged members of our society and we are going to stand up against anyone who tries to deny that,” Ellison said.

As stated in the lawsuit, CSL Plasma responded to the discrimination charge, acknowledging it had a “flat ban on all transgender donors.”

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Court documents state CSL allegedly said it revised its policies in March 2016 to allow donors to self-identify gender and accept donations from transgender persons who have not engaged in “behaviors that it identifies as risk factors.”

According to DHR, the department found probable cause for discrimination in November 2017, but CSL did not settle the case through DHR’s conciliation process.

In October 2018, James says a CSL employee at the center’s Minneapolis location told her she is permanently barred from donating.

James is joining the lawsuit and asking for an unspecified amount in damages.

“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,” James said.

“The charging party, as a transgender person who was born biologically male but identified as a female, is protected from discrimination based on her sexual orientation, as defined by the MHRA,” the lawsuit states.

Four other transgender people have filed similar complaints against CSL Plasma.

“Ignorance is like a disease, and if we are not careful it’s going to continue to spread,” said Bryana Smith, with the Minnesota Transgender Alliance.

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WCCO reached out to CSL Plasma and did not hear back.

Esme Murphy