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Transgender Discrimination Settlement: $50K for Firing Worker

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

A South Dakota woman reached a landmark transgender discrimination settlement, keeping in step with a growing trend of cases that say transgender discrimination is applicable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The $50,000 settlement is bringing transgender workers one step closer to federally recognized equal opportunity in the workplace.

Transgender Discrimination Settlement

Cori McCreery, 29, was fired in 2010 after telling her employer at Don's Valley Market in Rapid City, S.D. that she would be transitioning from a man to a woman, reports Time.

Lambda Legal, an LGBT-focused legal organization, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of McCreery. The complaint alleged that McCreery's employer violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace.

A landmark settlement was reached.

Pursuant to the EEOC conciliation agreement, McCreery will receive $50,000, the maximum settlement allowable for businesses with fewer than 100 employees, according to an EEOC statement. In addition, McCreery's former employer must post a public notice about job discrimination on the workplace bulletin board, host an annual, all-staff training on workplace protections, and issue a letter of apology and letter of recommendation for McCreery.

Trend, Not Law

Last year, the EEOC issued a landmark ruling that declared transgender people are protected against workplace discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. In July, Lambda Legal helped a transgender woman in Maryland reach a settlement after she faced verbal and physical harassment on the job over two years, reports Time.

While these cases signal a shift toward recognizing stronger LGBT rights, few statutory protections are currently in place.

Though Title VII provides protection, there is no federal law prohibiting discrimination against either transgender, lesbian, gay or bisexual people.

Currently, 16 states and D.C., along with at least 150 cities and counties, have laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Twenty-one states and D.C. have laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would provide federal protection, has been introduced just about every year since 1994 -- always to no avail. Given the Supreme Court's DOMA ruling and a general trend in favor of LGBT rights, perhaps this year will be different. Congress' movements seem to lean in favor of change; the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee just approved ENDA in July, reports TIME.

September 17, 2013 Editor's Note: The title of this blog post has been revised to correct the amount of the settlement.

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