Gay Couple Files Class Action Discrimination Charge Against New York City for Refusing to Give Gay Male City Workers the In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) Benefits the City Offers Other Workers
In a filing with the EEOC, the couple alleges that the City of New York has violated federal, state, and local civil rights laws that require employers like the City York to offer benefits without discriminating based on sexual orientation or sex
Contact: Peter Romer-Friedman, Gupta Wessler PLLC, firstname.lastname@example.org, 718-938-6132; Robert Friedman, Gupta Wessler PLLC, email@example.com, 202-888-1741; Joseph Wardenski, Wardenski PC, firstname.lastname@example.org.
New York, New York, April 12, 2022—Today, a gay male couple filed a class action discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the City of New York in which the couple alleges that the City, as an employer, violated federal, state, and local civil rights laws by denying gay male workers in vitro fertilization (IVF) benefits that the City offers to other employees. The charge is brought on behalf of the many other gay men who have been denied or are being denied IVF benefits by the City.
For many couples who cannot conceive a child though traditional means, the City’s generous IVF benefits make it possible to conceive a child and start a family. But the City of New York, which employs 325,000 workers, categorically excludes gay men from receiving those IVF benefits. It does this by making “infertility” a prerequisite for obtaining IVF benefits and then defining “infertility” in a way that allows straight and lesbian cisgender women to show that they are infertile, but precludes gay men from doing the same. As a result, gay men cannot obtain IVF benefits that workers of a different gender or sexual orientation routinely receive. The charge alleges that this disparate treatment constitutes discrimination based on sexual orientation and sex in violation of federal, state, and city civil rights laws. New York’s Insurance Law also bars discrimination in infertility services based on the same grounds.
The class action charge was filed by Corey Briskin, who served as an Assistant District Attorney in New York County from 2017 to 2022, and his husband Nicholas Maggipinto. The couple met in 2011 when they attended Brooklyn Law School. They married in 2016 (five years after New York legalized same-sex marriage) and hoped to begin growing their family in 2017.
Like many other gay male couples, Corey and Nicholas wanted to conceive a child biologically with the assistance of an egg donor, IVF, and a surrogate. But the high cost of IVF services—which routinely cost tens of thousands of dollars—has prevented them from starting their family. If they had had access to the generous IVF benefits that the City’s health plan provides to other workers, they would have started this process years earlier and would be parents to school-age children right now.
In June 2021, Corey contacted the City’s Office of Labor Relations to request that the City cover specific IVF services, but the City told him that he and his husband Nicholas were not eligible for those services and the City denied his request to cover them. In July 2021, Corey also contacted the City’s attorneys to demand that the City change its policy in order to treat gay male employees equally when it comes to IVF benefits. But again the City declined to change the policy and refused to discuss changes that would address the unequal treatment of gay male employees and their spouses who receive their health insurance benefits through the City. With the City refusing to treat Corey and Nicholas equally, and wanting to start their family as soon as possible, Corey and Nicholas decided to file a charge to expand access for themselves and the many other gay men who are similarly being denied equal treatment by the City.
Corey Briskin and Nicholas Maggipinto are represented by Peter Romer-Friedman and Robert Friedman of Gupta Wessler PLLC, and Joseph Wardenski of Wardenski PC.
Corey Briskin said, “I’m so glad that the City of New York wants to help its workers conceive children by offering generous IVF benefits. But the law requires those IVF benefits to be offered on an equal basis, including to gay men. As a prosecutor in Manhattan, I enforced the laws to protect the rights of my fellow New Yorkers. It’s sad to think that during that same time the City was ignoring the laws that protect me and other LGBTQ workers from discrimination. The City’s policy is based on an archaic idea of what kinds of people should be biological parents—one that’s inconsistent with modern values and how our society understands equality in 2022.”
Nicholas Maggipinto said, “IVF benefits should be available for all City workers and spouses who need them. But IVF benefits are especially important to gay men, who primarily rely on IVF to conceive biological children. The City’s denial of these IVF benefits to gay men is not just illegal, it’s morally wrong and unjust. It’s not too late for the City to do the right thing. We hope the City will change its IVF policy so that all City employees and their spouses can start their families when they want to, regardless of their sexual orientation or sex. But if the City refuses to do so, we are prepared to litigate this matter and establish that employers nationwide cannot deny IVF coverage to gay men. We are taking the City to task on this issue because it is one of fundamental fairness.”
Peter Romer-Friedman, a principal at Gupta Wessler PLLC, said “The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that it’s illegal for employers to discriminate against gay men. It’s unacceptable that the City of New York is categorically excluding gay men from receiving vitally important IVF benefits and refusing to end this discrimination. The City’s IVF policy is based on outdated, anti-gay stereotypes about what families are supposed to look like. It’s time for the City to throw those harmful stereotypes into the dustbin of history.”
Robert Friedman, a civil rights lawyer at Gupta Wessler,said, “We are asking the federal government to investigate the City’s discriminatory IVF policy and declare it unlawful. We are optimistic that the EEOC will find that the City is violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. But we hope that the City will respond to this charge by reviewing its misguided policy and working collaboratively with us to change the policy and expand opportunity.”
Joseph Wardenski, the founder and principal of Wardenski P.C., said, “In recent decades, we’ve made so much progress for LGBTQ rights in America, including having the Supreme Court recognize in 2020 that LGBTQ workers are protected against employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. But as this case shows, much more needs to be done to ensure that LGBTQ workers are treated fairly and equally in the workplace.”
New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/12/nyregion/nyc-ivf-same-sex-couple.html
Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/04/13/gay-couple-ivf-benefits-discrimination-complaint/
LGBTQ Nation: https://www.lgbtqnation.com/2022/04/new-york-city-insurance-bans-gay-couples-kids-gay-couple-fighting-back/
Edge Media Network: https://providence.edgemedianetwork.com/story.php?314656
NBC News: https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/gay-couple-files-complaint-new-york-city-denying-ivf-coverage-rcna24405
The Post Millennial: https://thepostmillennial.com/gay-couple-sues-nyc-to-access-ivf-fertility-treatment
Above the Law: https://abovethelaw.com/2022/04/et-tu-new-york-couple-files-lgbtq-ivf-discrimination-complaint-against-big-apple/
Gay City News: https://gaycitynews.com/gay-couple-accuses-city-of-discrimination-for-rejecting-ivf-coverage/
Star Observer: https://www.starobserver.com.au/news/gay-couple-denied-ivf-benefits-sues-city-of-new-york/212187
Gupta Wessler PLLC is a national appellate, constitutional, and complex litigation boutique. We litigate high-stakes cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and courts across the country, including in the areas of civil rights and consumer protection. Through all of our efforts, we aim to help shape the law in ways that enhance justice and improve people’s lives. The firm has offices in Washington, DC, Boston, and San Francisco.
Wardenski PC is a civil rights firm based in New York City that represents individuals and organizations challenging discrimination in education, health care, housing, and voting.