- The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision against RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes Inc. in Detroit, Michigan for unlawful discrimination committed against Aimee Stephens.
- Stephens alleged that she was fired after she told the management about her transition from male to female.
- The court also found out that the company was not able to establish that the presence of a transgender worker infringed on religious freedom of Thomas Rost’s, owner of the funeral home.
A U.S. appeals court declared that civil rights law also included protection of transgender workers against discrimination.
In a recent transgender news report by the Reuters published in Channel News Asia on March 8, the court ruled in favor of a transgender worker whose employment at a funeral company was terminated soon after her disclosure that she transitioned from male to female.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision against RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes Inc. in Detroit, Michigan for unlawful discrimination committed against Aimee Stephens based on her gender identity.
Stephens alleged that she was fired after she told the management about her transition. The lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Stephens way back in 2014.
On the other hand, the funeral company, owned by Thomas Rost, was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group.
The court also found out that the company was not able to establish that presence of a transgender worker infringed on Rost’s religious freedom.
Specifically, the funeral home unsuccessfully proved that the federal workplace law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, had burdened the ability of Rost, a devout Christian, to practice his religious rights.
During the proceedings, Rost asserted that he considered his business as a religious commitment particularly for families who have lost a loved one.
He claimed that Stephen’s continued employment at the funeral home would be a distraction for his customers.
Furthermore, he said that he cannot be held accountable of discrimination against Stephens based on her gender identity, as he believed that he was protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that prohibits state agencies from imposing on any American’s faith.
However, judge Karen Nelson Moore, in her decision penned last Wednesday, March 7, refuted the claim, stating that Rost could not apply presumed prejudice of his customers as an alibi in terminating Stephen’s employment with the company.
“Tolerating Stephens’s understanding of her sex and gender identity is not tantamount to supporting it,” Moore said.
Clothing and ministry
Rost also used clothing in his defense, claiming that since his company was paying for employee’s uniform at work, he would then be going against his religious beliefs when he would be forced to pay for Stephen’s female uniforms.
The court, nonetheless, disagreed. The ruling stated that Rost nor company was obliged by law to pay for the clothes of the workers.
The ruling also overturned the 2016 decision by a federal judge in Detroit that claimed Rost was not legally liable for discrimination as the operation of the business was a form of ministry.