March 21, 2018

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

09 March 2018, 03:38 | Lena Norman

Court rules against funeral home that fired employee for being transgender

Court Rules In Favor Of Fired Transgender Garden City Funeral Director

The decision by Moore and two others on the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals punished a Christian-owned MI funeral home for requiring that men dress as men, and women as women, when they deal with customers who are going through the trauma of the loss of a loved one. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. for more than five years, but when she made a decision 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 chose to let her go, citing his religious beliefs.

The same day the New Hampshire House voted to extend the state's anti-discrimination law to transgender people, the United States Court of Appeals for Sixth Circuit ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides the same protections against sex-based discrimination to transgenders as to anyone else.

Attorneys urged the court to rule that the funeral home qualifies for the "ministerial exception" to Title VII, but it said Stephens was not a ministerial employee and the funeral home is not a religious institution. "There is no way to disaggregate discrimination on the basis of transgender status from discrimination on the basis of gender non-conformity, and we see no reason to try". The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had sued over the discharge of the employee, who refused to comply with the male dress code.

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". The court ruled that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects the freedom of a business to maintain a dress code consistent with its sincerely held faith convictions.

The owners of the funeral home, who did not immediately return a call for comment, argued in court that transitioning to another gender is against their beliefs. The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces USA anti-discrimination laws against private employers, and it brought the case on behalf of fired transgender employee Aimee Stephens. "In too many workplaces around the country, coming out as trans is a fireable offense, as our client Aimee Stephens personally experienced".

ACLU of MI represented Stephens in the case.

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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. Regardless of employers religious beliefs, they are not allowed to discriminate against their employees based on gender or sexuality.

But the EEOC's complaint also asserts Ms. Stephens was sacked because she did not conform to "sex- or-gender-based preferences, expectations or stereotypes", said the District Court ruling.

Moore's reputation was noted by Ballotpedia, which explained she protected the immunity of a judge who viciously removed a lawyer with whom he had a conflict, causing him to lose his job.

"Today's decision misreads court precedents that have long protected businesses which properly differentiate between men and women in their dress and grooming code policies", he added. "This opinion instead re-writes federal law and is directly contrary to decisions from other federal appellate courts".

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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