In 2013, a Michigan funeral director informed his employer of a personal decision to transition into a woman. This was done through a letter, submitted to the funeral home’s employees. It explained how difficult the process was, and that he was looking forward to continuing his work there afterwards. He also wrote that he would have a new female name, and would dress appropriately in business attire. The employee had been with the business for six years when he sent the letter.
The employee’s coworkers attested to his skills, and stated he was a good worker with empathy for his clients and colleagues. However, two weeks after the funeral home’s owner got the letter, the employee was fired. The owner claimed that he would be uncomfortable with the employee using a female name, and dressing and acting like a woman.
The Court Decides
The employee went to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and filed a complaint claiming that she lost her job for being transgender. With the agency’s help, she sued the funeral home.
The plaintiff took her case to court in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, Ohio. There, it was ruled that since Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on sex, discrimination against transgender individuals was also illegal. It further specified that employees could not be discriminated against if they changed their gender.
Soon after, the funeral home’s lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court. They asked the Court to determine whether Title VII protected transgender people.
There are two other related cases that the Supreme Court is considering. Both question whether or not Title VII prohibits decimating against individuals based on sexual orientation.
All three of these cases, if heard, could lead to precedent-setting verdicts. It could widen the scope for sex-based discrimination rulings, and could include not only transgender, but straight, LGBTQ, and other individuals
The Supreme Court may or may not end up hearing this case; the decision was scheduled for November 30, but has been postponed.
A Brewing Controversy
Proponents for this case believe that it and others could positively influence future civil rights issues for these communities. There have been past federal court cases that were somewhat similar. Many of these ruled that discrimination laws, including Title VII, the Affordable Care Act, and the Title IX education law, apply to transgender individuals.
Opposing viewpoints have been heard from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which represents the funeral home. This nonprofit, conservative Christian group argues that a federal statute like Title VII should not be rewritten by a federal agency or a court. The believe that replacing the word “sex” with “gender identity” is a very serious change that could have long-term, unforeseen consequences.
The Trump administration’s Solicitor General asked the Supreme Court to deny reviewing the funeral home’s appeal. Instead, it was recommended that the Court hear a different case pertaining to Title VII, barring discrimination on sexual orientation. He also requested that they refuse the home’s appeal, whether or not they heard these two cases.
Marlton Employment Discrimination Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Assist in Job Discrimination Cases
Although the laws may be changing, employment discrimination based on sex is against the law.
Call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500, our Marlton office at 856-985-9800, our Newark office at 973-878-9040, or contact us at 888-396-0736 or online for a free consultation. We represent clients throughout New Jersey.