On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that a Detroit funeral home, which operates “like a ministry,” was allowed to fire a transgender employee because of their religious rights.
In 2014, U.S. District Judge Sean Cox ruled that the RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes Inc illegally fired their funeral director Aimee Stephens for being a transgender person. They fired her after she told her employer that she would be transitioning from male to female.
The EEOC has not challenged the funeral home’s sex-specific dress code, that requires female employees to wear a skirt-suit and requires males to wear a pants-suit with a neck tie. Rather, the EEOC takes the position that Stephens has a Title VII right to ‘dress as a woman’ (i.e., dress in a stereotypical feminine manner) while working at the funeral home, in order to express Stephens’ gender identity. If the compelling interest is truly in eliminating gender stereotypes, the court fails to see why the EEOC couldn’t propose a gender-neutral dress code as a reasonable accommodation that would be a less restrictive means of furthering that goal under the facts presented here.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said that the funeral home was violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the law bans discrimination based on “gender stereotyping.”
The gender-neutral dress code would probably help, but the EEOC didn’t include that in their case. The funeral home may have tried to find something else if the dress code was out of play.
The funeral home said that Stephens is biologically male and was violating their dress code because she doesn’t wear suits. The owner of the funeral home, Thomas Rost, said:
[He] sincerely believes that the Bible teaches that a person’s sex (whether male or female) is an immutable God-given gift and that it is wrong for a person to deny his or her God-given sex.
I don’t understand why people make such a huge deal about transgender people. It was a big topic earlier in the year with the transgender bathroom debate.