Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

Religion can't be used to justify workplace discrimination, court rules

Aimee Stephens Aimee Stephens
Steve Townsend | 10 March, 2018, 01:16

An appeals court has ruled in favor of a transgender woman who says she was illegally fired by a Metro Detroit funeral home while transitioning from a male to female.

A three-judge panel on the court found that R.G.

Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman, was sacked in 2013 from a Detroit-area funeral home.

"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. "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".

That same day, Lambda Legal filed an appeal in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of a man whose employment offer was rescinded when his prospective employer learned of his sexual orientation.

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 decision means transgender workers in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee-which make up the Sixth Circuit-don't have to provide additional evidence that the bias they allegedly faced was also based on illegal sex stereotyping or "gender nonconforming" behavior.

In a 3-0 decision, the court sided with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC] and transgender employee Aimee Stephens, who was sacked from a Detroit funeral home after she informed her employer that she was transgender and beginning her transition.

The case was remanded for further proceedings.

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"Discrimination on the basis of transgender and transitioning status is necessarily discrimination on the basis of sex, and thus the [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] 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", judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote in the appeals court's opinion.

Stephens said she was "thrilled with the court's decision", noting she "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.

"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", stated ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb.

"[The Department of Justice] has been rebuffed at every turn with how to apply anti-discrimination law", he said. McCaleb added. "This opinion instead rewrites federal law and is directly contrary to decisions from other federal appellate courts. We are consulting with our client to consider their options for appeal".

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in a 2012 ruling, held that discrimination against transgender individuals is a form of sex stereotyping prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which does not include specific reference to gender identity or expression.

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 dress code, according to the appeals ruling, required men to wear suits and ties and women to wear skirts and business jackets. ADF represented the funeral home in the case. Public-facing male employees were given clothing that complied with the company's dress code, while like female employees were not given such allowance.

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