A US appeals court on Wednesday said a federal law banning sex bias in the workplace prohibits discrimination against transgender workers, ruling in favor of a funeral director who claimed she was sacked after telling her boss she planned to transition to female from male.
Stephens complained to the state's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the treatment, but her former employer opted to fight the issue through the courts, arguing that it is not illegal to discriminate against transgender people.
Moore rejects the assertion Stephens' presentation as a woman would be a distraction for the deceased's loves ones at a funeral home, deriding the idea as "premised on presumed biases", as well as the notion it would place a burden on Rost's religious beliefs because he pays for attire for employees. The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces US anti-discrimination laws against private employers, and it brought the case on behalf of fired transgender employee Aimee Stephens.
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. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc., engaged in unlawful discrimination against Aimee (formerly Anthony) Stephens on the basis of her sex; that applying Title VII would not substantially interfere with owner Thomas Rost's religious exercise; even if it did "burden" Rost's religious exercise, enforcing Title VII was the "least restrictive means of furthering the government's compelling interest in eradicating workplace discrimination"; and that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was justified in bringing a related claim against the funeral home for administering a discriminatory clothing-allowance policy that provides clothing to male employees to but not to female employees. "Court opinions should interpret legal terms according to their plain meaning when Congress passed the law".
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Jay Kaplan is a staff attorney with the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union which is representing Stephens in this case.
"In too many workplaces all of the country, coming out as trans is still seen as a fire-able offense", Korobkin told WWJ Newsradio 950's Sandra McNeill.
"The significance of this decision is hard to overstate", said Lambda Legal lawyer Sharon McGowan in an email to BuzzFeed News. & 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". "That's exactly what was experienced by Amy Stephens in this case".
"Religious freedom should never be used as a basis to discriminate against people and deny their basic human rights", Rachel Laser, the executive director of Americans United, said in a statement. Other appeals courts have recently found that sexual orientation is also protected under Title VII.
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The panel's ruling also goes against a memorandum from the Trump administration issued last October in which Attorney General Jeff Sessions explained that Title VII's sex discrimination clause is about biological sex and not gender identity.
She wrote the opinion against R.G.
Judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote the opinion, which was joined by Judges Helene N. White and Bernice B. Donald.
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