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Employment Discrimination Blog

Friday, May 11, 2018

New Court Ruling Provides Transgender Employees with More Protection

Can my employer fire me for being transgender?

Recently, a federal appeals court held that transgender people are protected under civil rights laws that ban workplace discrimination based on sex. The decision, which arouse out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, could bring significant protections to transgender employees across the nation. Our Atlanta employment discrimination lawyers at Pankey & Horlock, LLC offer an overview of the case EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes and what it could mean for transgender employees below.

EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes

Aimee Stephens worked at R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes for nearly six years. She notified the owner of the funeral home that she is a transgender and intended to start presenting herself and dressing as a woman. Rather than receiving support, Stephens was fired shortly after. Stephens filed a claim of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who in turn filed suit.

The owner of the funeral home defended himself by stating that as a devote Christian, forcing him to continue to employ a transgender employee who constitute a substantial burden to his religious beliefs. The Court of Appeals rejected this argument. On appeal, the court held that employees may not be discriminated against due to their failure to conform to stereotypical gender norms. Discrimination based on being transgender is a form of sex discrimination under Title VII.

For now, it is not clear whether the funeral home will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. If presented with the challenge, the high court will be forced to make a significant ruling effecting transgender citizens. It is unclear where the court’s ruling would fall.

Transgender employees across the country should celebrate the Sixth Circuit’s ruling. While the holding does not apply to all regions, it is now a part of the growing segment of case law that supports protections for transgender employees under existing sex discrimination laws. Any transgender employee who has experienced discrimination should contact an employment discrimination lawyer in their area as soon as possible.


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