Court Rules In Favor Of Fired Transgender Employee

Grace Carr | Reporter

A federal court ruled Wednesday a funeral home could not fire a transgender person because doing so displays discrimination based on gender identity.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled the Harris Funeral Homes owner discriminated against transgender employee Aimee Stephens when he fired Stephens in 2013. “Discrimination against employees, either because of their failure to conform to sex stereotypes or their transgender and transitioning status, is illegal under Title VII,” the three appellate case ruling judges wrote in their decision, according to Michigan Radio.

Michigan resident Aimee Stephens sent his boss, Thomas Rost, a letter in 2013 explaining he felt he had been born in the wrong body and was really a woman, according to WXYZ Detroit. Stephens said he was going to start dressing as a woman and wanted Rost to be aware of the upcoming changes. Stephens sued on grounds of discrimination after Rost fired him, but a lower court ruled against him.

Rost acknowledged he indeed fired Aimee because his religious beliefs didn’t allow him to feel comfortable with a transgender employee directing his funeral home business. Rost said it was his religious freedom and right as a business owner to let go an employee he deemed unfit.

The Sixth Circuit Court overturned this previous ruling, however, marking a win for the transgender community. “They made it clear that an employer’s religious beliefs, no matter how sincerely held, do not create a license to discriminate against transgender people,” American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Staff Attorney Jay Kaplan said, Michigan Radio reported.

Rost and his lawyer don’t see it the same way. The Sixth Circuit’s decision “re-writes federal law and is directly contrary to decisions from other federal appellate courts,” Alliance Defending Freedom Attorney Gary McCaleb said.

Two transgender individuals recently sued the state of Iowa because the state’s Medicaid coverage doesn’t provide insurance for sex reassignment surgery. An Oregon elementary school “transmasculine” teacher’s school district awarded her $60,000 as compensation for referred to her as the wrong pronoun. (Related: Transgender Teacher Gets $60k After Co-Workers Won’t Call Her ‘They’).

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