Friday, 22 February, 2019

Transgender People Are Protected From Workplace Discrimination, a Court Ruled

Aimee Stephens Aimee Stephens The court ruled in the case of a funeral director fired after she announced her transition. By Trudy Ring March 07 2018 5:35 PM EST
Melissa Porter | 09 March, 2018, 15:42

A federal court has ruled that a male funeral director who was sacked after announcing his intention to dress as a woman while performing his duties at a Christian funeral home was the victim of "gender identity" discrimination.

The EEOC appealed the decision and got the ruling in its favor Wednesday. The court delivered its ruling March 7.

"Discrimination on the basis of transgender and transitioning status is necessarily discrimination on the basis of sex, and thus the [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] should have had the opportunity to prove that the Funeral Home violated Title VII by firing Stephens because she is transgender and transitioning from male to female", judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote in the appeals court's opinion.

Although the issues are closely connected, most courts have handled them as distinct legal questions. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had sued over the discharge of the employee, who refused to comply with the male dress code. The court ruled against R.G.

The court sided with Aimee Stephens in her suit against R.G.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday once again held that workplace anti-discrimination laws extend to protections for transgender workers.

Ms. Stephens' complaint led to the discovery that the funeral home discriminated between the sexes in other ways, including by providing a uniform for men, but neither a uniform nor clothing stipend for female employees.

The court reversed [text, PDF] the district court's grant of summary judgment, finding the funeral home in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act [text] for unlawful termination.

American business owners, especially those serving the grieving and the vulnerable, should be free to live and work consistently with their faith. ADF represented the funeral home in the case. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, which has locations in Detroit, Garden City, and Livonia.

The EEOC said in a September 2014 lawsuit filed on her behalf that the funeral home violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in terminating her. "Court opinions should interpret legal terms according to their plain meaning when Congress passed the law". "This opinion instead re-writes federal law and is directly contrary to decisions from other federal appellate courts". McCabe said his organization is "consulting with our client to consider their options for appeal".

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represented Stephens, hailed the decision as an "important victory for transgender people and allied communities across the country". In a statement, John Knight, a senior staff attorney with ACLU's LGBT & HIV Project said, "In too many workplaces around the country, coming out as trans is a fireable offense, as our client Aimee Stephens personally experienced".

Nor does compliance with Title VII amount to an endorsement of Stephens' views, the appeals court said. "We are thrilled for Aimee, and for all trans folks, to be able to announce this win today". "RFRA provides the Funeral Home with no relief because continuing to employ Stephens would not, as a matter of law, substantially burden Rost's religious exercise, and even if it did, the EEOC has shown that enforcing Title VII here is the least restrictive means of furthering its compelling interest in combating and eradicating sex discrimination". Lambda Legal filed an amicus brief in the case supporting Stephens and the EEOC. Second, it makes clear religious freedom as outlined under RFRA doesn't supersede Title VII's prohibition on employment discrimination.

The court then quashed a previous ruling on the issue, and found in favour of the unlawful termination claim.