Transgender woman wins appeal in court case against Detroit-area funeral home

10 March, 2018, 01:15 | Author: Darrell Lopez
  • Aimee Stephens

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.

She wrote the opinion against R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes of Detroit and owner Tom Rost unlawfully discriminated against a transgender employee named Aimee Stephens.

"An employer can not discriminate on the basis of transgender status without imposing its stereotypical notions of how sexual organs and gender identity ought to align", she continued.

"Discrimination on the basis of transgender and transitioning status is necessarily discrimination on the basis of sex, and thus the EEOC 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", said the decision.

The first-of-its-kind decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is the second significant win in 10 days for LGBT workers on issues that many predict will ultimately go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

She was sacked about two weeks later, with the company's owner stating that "what she was proposing to do" was unacceptable, according to the ruling.

The ACLU and ACLU of MI represent Aimee Stephens and intervened on her behalf a year ago in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's lawsuit against R.G.

The ACLU of MI intervened to help represent Stephens on appeal in 2017, following the District Court ruling.

An appeals court ruled today that federal laws prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of gender also cover bias against transgender employees.




"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".

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

He argued that "American business owners, especially those serving the grieving and the vulnerable, should be free to live and work consistently with their faith".

"The funeral home's dress code is tailored to serve those mourning the loss of a loved one", ADF attorney Gary McCaleb said. Today's decision misreads court precedents that have long protected businesses which properly differentiate between men and women in their dress and grooming policies.

"Court opinions should interpret legal terms according to their plain meaning when Congress passed the law", McCaleb said.

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.

As far as the dress code is concerned, the EEOC learned the funeral home provided clothing to male workers dealing with the public but not females.

The dress code, according to the appeals ruling, required men to wear suits and ties and women to wear skirts and business jackets. 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". The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had sued over the discharge of the employee, who refused to comply with the male dress code.

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