Transgender People Are Protected From Workplace Discrimination, a Court Ruled

Phillip Cunningham
March 10, 2018

Funeral home director Aimee Stephens says she was sacked from her job with RG & GR Funeral Homes after telling her boss she would begin transitioning from male to female.

Aimee Australia Stephens, formerly known as William Anthony Beasley Stephens, worked for R.G.

GR & RG Funeral Homes operate locations in Detroit, Garden City, and Livonia.

Whether Title VII anti-discrimination laws in employment extend to sexual orientation and gender identity is an issue that's been has been widely disputed. "The unrefuted facts show that the Funeral Home fired Stephens because she refused to abide by her employer's stereotypical conception of her sex, and therefore the EEOC is entitled to summary judgment as to its unlawful-termination claim".

In 2016, a federal district court ruled in favor of the Detroit funeral home and its workplace dress code.

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

But Moore discounted Rost's explanation that "the Bible teaches that a person's sex (whether male or female) is an immutable God-given gift and that it is wrong for a person to deny his or her God-given sex" and that "the Bible teaches it is wrong for a biological male to deny his sex by dressing as a woman".

But before she left for vacation, Rost said, "this is not going to work out" and offered a severance package if Stephens "agreed not to say or do anything", according to the case background.

The EEOC learned that the funeral home, until fall 2014, provided clothing to male workers dealing with the public but not females.

The ACLU of MI intervened to help represent Stephens on appeal in 2017, following the District Court ruling. Yet Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore felt differently, writing for the court that Rost could not use the "presumed biases" of his customers as an excuse for firing her. Reuters reported that "the court also said the funeral home failed to establish that the federal workplace law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, substantially burdened the ability of funeral home owner Thomas Rost, a devout Christian, to exercise his religious rights in his treatment of Stephens".

"I pursued this case because no one should be fired from their job just for being who they are".

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

The Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the funeral home, said in a statement released Wednesday that the ruling "re-writes federal law and is directly contrary to decisions from other federal appellate courts". Today's decision misreads court precedents that have long protected businesses which properly differentiate between men and women in their dress and grooming policies.

The court then quashed a previous ruling on the issue, and found in favour of the unlawful termination claim. "We are consulting with our client to consider their options for appeal". "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 statement.

Karen Moore - a federal judge who once ruled that judges have almost absolute immunity from claims over their behavior, even when they are "petty, unethical and unworthy" - now has concluded that a funeral home must allow a male employee to dress in skirts, nylons and high heels. 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 lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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