Court rules in favor of fired transgender funeral director

Court Rules In Favor Of Fired Transgender Garden City Funeral Director

A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of a woman who was sacked by a Garden City funeral home after she disclosed she was transitioning from male to female, and began dressing like a woman. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes in Detroit fired her after she disclosed her intention to transition.

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

Attorney Dan Korobkin with the American Civil Liberties Union says management never denied that Stephens was sacked because she informed officials of her decision.

"Although federal law, including Title VII, provides various protections to transgender individuals, Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se", Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote.

A three-judge panel on a federal appeals court in Cincinnati ruled Wednesday the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act doesn't allow employers to engage in anti-transgender employment discrimination. The company owner, Thomas Rost, had claimed that requiring him to keep Stephens on staff would be an unjustified substantial burden on his sincerely held religious beliefs.

According to Kaplan, employment discrimination against transgender people is pervasive and, as a result, many live in poverty; so this decision "gives a great deal of hope to a lot of people out there".

"The funeral home's dress code is tailored to serve those mourning the loss of a loved one", ADF attorney Gary McCaleb said. He said in a statement that the opinion "rewrites federal law and is directly contrary to decisions from other federal appellate courts".

The decision remands the case back to trial court, which concluded the funeral home did have leeway to terminate Stephens under RFRA, a 1993 law meant to protect religious minorities that requires the federal government to take the least restrictive path when infringing upon religious liberty. "We are consulting with our client to consider their options for appeal".

"[However] the Funeral Home is not affiliated with a church; it does not claim to have a religious objective in its articles of incorporation; it is open every day, including Christian holidays; and it serves clients of all faiths".

"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. "We are thrilled for Aimee, and for all trans folks, to be able to announce this win today".

In essence, the Sixth Circuit establishes two milestones with the decision. The Eleventh Circuit, on the other hand, declined to overturn its prior precedent saying that sexual orientation bias isn't expressly prohibited under the 1964 law.

The Justice Department previously said the federal provision considered in Wednesday's ruling - Title VII of the 1964 civil rights law - didn't necessarily protect against discrimination based on gender identity.

The EEOC didn't immediately respond March 7 to Bloomberg Law's request for comment.

Writing the 49-page unanimous opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore, a Clinton appointee, determined R.G.

Anne Noel Occhiallino of the EEOC in Washington represented the commission.

However, it erred "in finding that Stephens could not alternatively pursue a claim that she was discriminated against on the basis of her transgender and transitioning status", said the ruling. ADF's Douglas G. Wardlow also represented R.G.

The case now will return to Cox's courtroom for additional work, including the EEOC's claim that the funeral home's clothing allowance policy was discriminatory.

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