By Michael Cork, Esq.
Ultimately, the funeral home terminated the transgender female for refusing to comply with the funeral home's "sex-specific" dress code. That dress code requires all employees to dress in a manner sensitive to grieving family members and friends. To the employer, that means that employees must dress in accordance with their biological sex. The funeral home submitted evidence that the dress code is rooted in the owners' sincerely-held religious beliefs. And the court ruled that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects the freedom of the business to maintain a dress code consistent with its sincerely held faith convictions.
This case was brought by the EEOC in an attempt to have sexual orientation and gender identity considered as protected categories under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC's 2012 Strategic Enforcement Initiative targeted sexual orientation and gender identity issues as commission priorities. In its September 25, 2014 press release announcing the filing of this lawsuit, the EEOC described the Michigan case as one of two the EEOC filed that day, and the first suits in its history challenging transgender discrimination under Title VII.
Attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom represented the funeral home. It is expected that the EEOC will appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. This issue may wind its way to the United States Supreme Court for ultimate resolution.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be treated or interpreted as legal advice. For specific advice, contact the attorney of your choice.