Health Care

Court rules against funeral home that fired employee for being transgender

Court rules against funeral home that fired employee for being transgender

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. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes of Detroit and owner Tom Rost unlawfully discriminated against a transgender employee named Aimee Stephens. McCaleb added. "This opinion instead rewrites federal law and is directly contrary to decisions from other federal appellate courts". & G.R. Harris Funeral Home in Garden City from 2007 until her firing in 2013. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc.

Moore's opinion referenced Anthony Stephens, the employee who complained about the funeral home's practice, as "her". & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, noting that, under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the government can not force someone like Rost to violate his faith unless it demonstrates that doing so is the "least restrictive means" of furthering a "compelling government interest".

The case is the latest to weigh in on whether Title VII relates to gender identity and sexual orientation, something the Department of Justice has fought under Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which filed an amicus brief in the case, celebrated the panel's decision.

"The court's decision rights a grievous wrong and protects our core values of religious freedom, fairness and equality".

"American business owners, especially those serving the grieving and the vulnerable, should be free to live and work consistently with their faith", said ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb.

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After filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the organization sued the funeral home on her behalf.

EEOC explained in a September 2014 statement the suit against Harris was part of an "ongoing efforts to implement its Strategic Enforcement Plan". "Moreover, whatever this Court would say about the question were it writing on a blank slate, Congress has made clear through its actions and inactions in this area that Title VII's prohibition of sex discrimination does not encompass sexual orientation discrimination".

The Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the business, said it was consulting with its clients about an appeal. In a 2016 interview with The Christian Post, ADF attorney Doug Wardlow argued that the case was part of the Obama administration's aim "to push a political agenda".

"Discrimination against employees, either because of their failure to conform to sex stereotypes or their transgender and transitioning status, is illegal under Title VII", Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote for the appeals court. The Second Circuit joined the Seventh Circuit in holding that lesbian, gay, and bisexual workers don't have to show that bias was motivated by sexual stereotyping to be protected by Title VII.

The court rejected not only the funeral home owner's assertion that a high level of propriety is necessary to conduct business, but also his appeals to faith and conscience.

"Simply permitting Stephens to wear attire that reflects a conception of gender that is at odds with Rost's religious beliefs is not a substantial burden under RFRA [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act]", wrote Moore."We hold that, as a matter of law, tolerating Stephens's understanding of her sex and gender identity is not tantamount to supporting it". If a least restrictive means is available to achieve the goal, the government must use it. "It has failed to do so here".