In a recent landmark case, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits transgender workplace discrimination. The court also determined that employers may not use the Religious Freedom Act as an excuse or justification to discriminate against workers.
In the case, EEOC v. v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, a transgender woman who was working as a funeral director was terminated after disclosing to her boss that she planned to transition. When she was hired, she presented as a male, but decided to transition because she had a gender identity disorder. After informing her boss of her decision, she was immediately terminated. The lower court ruled that she had been subjected to unlawful sex discrimination, but that the funeral home had a right to fire her under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, finding that although the funeral home is not religiously affiliated, private employers could use religion as a rationale for discriminating.
The 6th Circuit overturned this position concluding that Title VII does outlaw anti-trans employment discrimination, for two primary reasons. First, Title VII prohibits sex stereotyping (discriminating against a person for not conforming to gender norms). Second – firing someone because they are transitioning it unlawfully taking an employee’s sex into consideration in violation of Title VII. Furthermore, the court determined that it was not a substantial burden for the funeral home to continue to employ a transgender individual.
This case adds to the growing list of federal courts that have determined Title VII protects against sexual orientation discrimination. For more information or if you believe you have endured any type of employment discrimination, please contact the experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyers at Buckley Beal LLP for an immediate case evaluation.