DETROIT – Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes unlawfully discriminated against Aimee Stephens when it fired her after she told her employer that she would begin presenting as a woman because she is transgender.
The ruling affirms that transgender individuals are protected by federal sex discrimination laws, and that religious belief does not give employers the right to discriminate against them. Today’s decision reverses the lower court’s decision, which held that religious belief was sufficient to exempt the employer from anti-discrimination laws.
John Knight, senior staff attorney with the LGBT & HIV Project for the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued the case, had the following response:
“Today’s decision is an exciting and important victory for transgender people and allied communities across the country. In too many workplaces around the country, coming out as trans is a fireable offense, as our client Aimee Stephens personally experienced. But this ruling affirms that that is illegal, setting an important precedent confirming that transgender people are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. It also ensures that employers will not be able to use their religious beliefs against trans employees, ruling that there is no ‘right to discriminate’ in the workplace. We are thrilled for Aimee, and for all trans folks, to be able to announce this win today.”
The ACLU and ACLU of Michigan represent Aimee Stephens and intervened on her behalf last year in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s lawsuit against R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes.
Ms. Stephens had the following response:
“I pursued this case because no one should be fired from their job just for being who they are. I’m thrilled with the court’s decision.”