Lawsuit Challenging For-Profit Plasma Company’s Refusal of Transgender Donor Is Resolved

April 10, 2017

Sarah MacDonald, Legal Voice
[email protected]
206.682.9552 x107

Saint Paul, Minn.—

A lawsuit challenging a plasma collection company’s refusal to allow donations by a transgender woman has been resolved, two months before the case was scheduled for trial in federal court in Seattle.

The case, Kaiser v. CSL Plasma, Inc., was filed in April 2015 in Seattle by Jasmine Kaiser, a transgender woman. Ms. Kaiser alleged that CSL Plasma refused to allow her to donate plasma at its facility in Kent, Washington in June 2014 because she is transgender. She also alleged in her complaint that she was told CSL Plasma would place a “lifetime deferment” on her ability to donate and would inform other donation centers about the deferment.

The lawsuit included claims against CSL Plasma for alleged violations of Washington State’s Law Against Discrimination and Consumer Protection Act. The Washington Law Against Discrimination prohibits places of public accommodation from discriminating based on a person’s gender identity.

The case was originally filed in Washington state court, which denied CSL Plasma’s attempt to dismiss Ms. Kaiser’s lawsuit.  Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson submitted a friend of the court brief supporting Ms. Kaiser’s position that CSL Plasma is a place of public accommodation and is subject to the non-discrimination requirements of the Washington Law Against Discrimination.

In this litigation, Ms. Kaiser argued that no federal law, rule, or other policy authorizes plasma centers to deny donors because they are transgender. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has adopted policies restricting blood or plasma donations by men who have had sex with men, the FDA has never adopted a rule or policy barring donations based on the fact that a person is transgender.

After this lawsuit was filed, the FDA issued revised guidance in December 2015 regarding blood product donation policies. The FDA’s updated guidance continues to provide no ban on donations of blood products by transgender people. The FDA’s revised guidance also specified that blood product collection centers should accept a donor’s self-identification of their gender, meaning that a transgender woman like Ms. Kaiser should be screened as a woman.

Ms. Kaiser’s case was later moved to federal court. On March 2, 2017, Chief Judge Ricardo Martinez of the U.S. District Court in Seattle ruled in favor of Ms. Kaiser on key issues in the case. In particular, Judge Martinez agreed with Ms. Kaiser that federal law does not shield CSL Plasma from her claims brought under Washington state law. Judge Martinez noted in his ruling that CSL Plasma had failed to provide any guideline, regulation, or law that requires the wholesale rejection of donations from transgender people by plasma collection centers.

The lawsuit was resolved by the parties soon after this ruling. In briefing filed with the court, CSL Plasma acknowledged that the FDA issued revised guidance for collection facilities regarding transgender donors in December 2015, and indicated that the company has worked to follow the FDA’s guidance.

Ms. Kaiser was represented in this case by David Ward of Legal Voice, a Seattle-based women’s rights organization; Isaac Ruiz, Kayti Knudson, and Gabe Verdugo of Keller Rohrback LLP; and Jill Gaulding of Gender Justice, a Minnesota-based organization devoted to addressing gender inequality. Her attorneys applaud Ms. Kaiser’s courage in bringing the lawsuit and note the significance of the court’s rulings in this case.

“Judge Martinez recognized that federal law doesn’t give plasma centers a license to discriminate against transgender people,” said David Ward of Legal Voice. “Washington law protects transgender people from being treated like second-class people.”

“The rulings in this case should make it clear that no one can be turned away from donating blood or plasma in Washington State simply because they are transgender,” said Isaac Ruiz of Keller Rohrback.  “We are grateful to Ms. Kaiser for stepping forward and refusing to accept being treated differently because she is transgender.”

“We were proud to join in representing Ms. Kaiser in this case,” said Jill Gaulding of Gender Justice. “We fight discrimination against transgender people in many different states, and the federal court’s ruling in this case will help transgender people across the country.”

Legal Voice is a progressive feminist organization using the power of the law to make positive change for women and girls in the Northwest. Legal Voice uses ground-breaking litigation, legislative advocacy, and community education to fight gender oppression and injustice in the legal system.

Gender Justice is a nonprofit legal advocacy organization that seeks to eliminate gender inequality through litigation, public policy advocacy, and education programs. Founded in 2010, Gender Justice is based in the Twin Cities and serves the Upper Midwest.

Keller Rohrback L.L.P., with offices in Seattle, Phoenix, New York, and Santa Barbara, serves as lead and co-lead counsel in lawsuits throughout the country and is proud to offer its expertise to clients nationwide, and our trial lawyers have obtained judgments and settlements on behalf of clients in excess of seven billion dollars.


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