When employees die in workplace accidents, their families are generally entitled to receive certain benefits, such as compensation for burial expenses and some financial assistance. However, if you are a transgender individual, you may be denied these benefits even if you are legally married to your spouse. Here what you need to know about this issue.

A Matter of Definitions

Although workers' compensation insurance is typically provided through private companies, these companies must obey all state and federal laws. This means that if the law defines transgender individuals in a way that invalidates their legal relationships to their partners, then the surviving spouses may be denied benefits.

A prime example of this problem is the ongoing legal battle between Nikki Paige Araguz and the state of Texas. Although Araguz has completed the male-to-female transition, Texas defines transgender individuals by their biological sex at birth. In Araguz's case, the state views her as male and has invalidated her marriage on the basis that she entered a same-sex union with her husband, which is still illegal in Texas.

Transgender individuals can also get caught out in the cold if they fail to change their gender identities on legal documents such as birth certificates and marry people who are the same biological sex as them. Their unions may be deemed same-sex marriages (even though they may consider themselves in opposite-sex relationships), and they may be subsequently denied benefits in states that don't recognize those unions.

Getting Around the Law

Whether or not there are alternative means of collecting survivors' benefits from workers' compensation depends on where you live. Many states require the couple to be legally married in order for the spouse to receive benefits. However, some states do recognize domestic partnerships. For instance, registered domestic partners in Wisconsin are eligible for the same workers' compensation benefits as married couples.

In other states, workers' compensation will award a lump-sum payment to the decedent's estate if the person had no surviving family to collect the money. For instance, New York State Workers' Compensation will pay $50,000 to the estate of employees in this situation.

A third option is to sue the state for the benefits denied to you because of discriminatory laws. This will take a lot of time, effort, and resources, but can result in the government extending workers' compensation benefits to previously excluded groups.

If you're having difficulty collecting survivors' benefits from workers' compensation due to being a transgender individual, it's best to consult with a workers comp attorney who can help you take the most appropriate action to achieve the legal outcome you desire.