6th Circuit: Funeral home unlawfully discriminated against fired transgender employee

09 March, 2018, 10:37 | Author: Sherman Richardson
  • 6th Circuit: Funeral home unlawfully discriminated against fired transgender employee

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled Wednesday that the federal government can force a MI funeral home to allow a male employee to dress as a woman despite the family business's sex-specific dress code. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. for more than five years, but when she chose to come to work dressed as a woman instead of a man, the funeral home owner, Thomas Rost, fired her. Ms. Stephens had notified Mr. Rost she would be transitioning, but he made a decision to let her go, citing his religious beliefs.

The appeals court said Title VII's ban on sex discrimination protected Stephens, and permitting her to represent herself as a woman did not substantially burden Rost's religious beliefs.

The Sixth Circuit appears to be the first circuit to address anew in a published opinion whether Title VII's sex bias prohibition also outlaws gender identity bias in the absence of proof that the discrimination targeted a worker for behavior that allegedly didn't conform to perceived traditional gender stereotypes, Nevins said. "Thus, if the EEOC's complaint had alleged that the funeral home fired Stephens based exclusively upon Stephens' status as a transgender person, then this court would agree with the funeral home that the EEOC's complaint fails to state a claim under Title VII", the ruling states.

Jay Kaplan is a staff attorney with the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union which is representing Stephens in this case.

Stephens wrote that she struggled with "a gender identity disorder" and planned to undergo to gender reassignment surgery, according to the ruling.

"Religious freedom should never be used as a basis to discriminate against people and deny their basic human rights", Rachel Laser, the executive director of Americans United, said in a statement.

The court described the mission statement as: "T$3 he Funeral Home's "highest priority is to honor God in all that we do as a company and as individuals" and includes a verse of scripture on the bottom of the mission statement webpage". First, it explicitly concludes discrimination against transgender workers is sex discrimination, and unlawful under Title VII.

6th Circuit: Funeral home unlawfully discriminated against fired transgender employee

A three-judge panel on the court found that R.G.

Joining in Moore in the decision is U.S. Circuit Judge Jeffrey White, an appointee of George W. Bush; and U.S. Circuit Judge Bernice Donald, an Obama appointee.

"In too many workplaces around the country, coming out as trans is a fireable offense, as our client Aimee Stephens personally experienced", he said in a statement.

"That could be a religious belief that someone has, but at this same time most people understand that it's wrong to decriminalize, and it's wrong to fire someone from their job that they're doing perfectly well just because they're transgender".

"But this ruling affirms that that is illegal, setting an important precedent confirming that transgender people are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act", Knight said.

In a 2016 interview with WWJ, Wardlow said his client was simply looking out for the best interests of the bereaved, adding that "Numerous courts have recognized that companies may differentiate between men and women in their dress and grooming policies without violating Title VII".

Alliance Defending Freedom has the options of seeking "en banc" review before the full Sixth Circuit or filing a petition for certiorari before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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