Victory! Lambda Legal Helps S.D. Transgender Employee Win Landmark Settlement

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September 16, 2013
Lambda Legal Client Cori McCreery

Today Lambda Legal announced a landmark settlement for Cori McCreery, a transgender woman in South Dakota who was terminated from her job after she informed her employer that she would be taking steps to transition from male to female at work.

Backed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Cori’s settlement includes $50,000, the maximum statutory amount for a business with under 100 employees, plus public notice on the EEOC website, public notice on the workplace bulletin board, a mandatory policy in the workplace on workplace protections, a yearly three-hour all-staff mandatory training on workplace protections, and a letter of apology and letter of recommendation  for McCreery.

“This comprehensive settlement makes a strong statement about the EEOC’s commitment that discrimination against transgender workers will not be tolerated,” said Dru Levasseur, Transgender Rights Project Director for Lambda Legal. “The days of firing people on the basis of their gender identity or gender expression have passed.  The EEOC has demonstrated clear support, and we anticipate more victories for transgender and gender nonconforming people.”

Cori McCreery, 29, was born and raised in Rapid City, South Dakota and worked as a store clerk for the owner of Don’s Valley Market, a local grocery chain, on and off for a total of five years at two separate businesses.  When re-hired in August 2010, she was promoted to supervisor three months into the job.  Supported by family and friends, McCreery notified her employer that she would be transitioning on the job. After initial assurance about her job security, she was swiftly fired, told that she was "making other employees uncomfortable" and that he had a "7 million dollar investment to protect." After McCreery’s call to Lambda Legal’s Help Desk, Lambda Legal filed a complaint in March 2012 on her behalf with the EEOC, claiming that her termination constitutes illegal sex-based discrimination under Title VII, the section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination in the workplace.

A month later, in April 2012, the EEOC issued the historic Macy v. Holder decision clarifying that Title VII protects transgender employees from discrimination on the basis of sex because sex stereotyping is illegal.

The Macy decision relied heavily upon Lambda Legal’s ground-breaking 2008 victory in the Eleventh Circuit on behalf of Vandy Beth Glenn, a legislative editor who was fired from her job with the Georgia General Assembly office after announcing her intent to transition from male to female at work.

With Lambda Legal’s settlement for Cori McCreery,and the settlement last month on behalf of anonymous Maryland plaintiff Lambda Legal is at the forefront of transgender workplace equality.

“I’m so incredibly thrilled,” said Cori McCreery, who now works for a company which scores 100% on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index. “This gives me hope.  The day I was fired, I had no idea what I would do.  I now feel a sense of closure and can focus on my future.  No one should be fired just because of who they are.”

McCreery’s settlement affirms the EEOC’s position on workplace protections for transgender employees and  the types of severe penalties employers could face if they attempt to discriminate against their transgender employees. McCreery’s employer did not have a workplace non-discrimination policy, which is avoidable and in business owners’ best interest to establish policies.

Lambda Legal’s Transgender Rights Project recently made information on rights more accessible through a robust mobile hub Know Your Rights Transgender which provides guidance on a range of issues facing transgender people.

Read a first-hand account from Cori McCreery.

Visit Know Your Rights: Transgender.

Read the press release.