Earlier this week, Cori McCreery, a 29-year-old transgender woman, reached a $50,000 settlement in an employment discrimination suit against her former employer.
Cori was fired in 2010 after informing her employer, Don's Valley Market in Rapid City, S.D., of her intention to transition from male to female. Shortly thereafter, a complaint was filed on the basis that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids sex discrimination.
A handful of discrimination suit victories have gone in favor of transgender workers in the 18 months following the landmark case Macy v. Holder, which established that gender identity is in fact protected under Title VII. While encouraging, reliance on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 doesn't offer transgender individuals the protection necessary to close some of the employment and wage gaps they so frequently face.
For one, the infrequency of these cases speaks volumes about just how hard it is to establish that discrimination has taken place. Additionally, the effort necessary to file a civil rights lawsuit is extraordinary, with these cases being drawn out for months, if not years, at a time.
Without passage of a bill that clearly outlines the illegality of discrimination against transgender individuals, like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), public perception of transgender workplace rights may remain stagnant.
Nearly 90 percent of transgender individuals note some sort of employment harassment on the job. As a result, transgender individuals experience significantly elevated rates of unemployment, poverty and homelessness. While Cori McCreery may have found justice, thousands of others still haven't found theirs.
We need to keep pressure on Congress to pass this piece of vital legislation.