It is legal for a conservative Christian employer to fire a transgender employee, simply because the person wants to dress as a woman.
Your Conservative Christian Employer Can Fire Your Transgender Co-worker
In a summary judgement against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at a Michigan district court, the ruling said that a conservative Christian employee has the right to terminate a former funeral home director, who was starting to transition from male to female. The latest ruling is a powerful reminder of how tenuous workplace transgender rights are in the United States. Aimee Stephens, was a funeral director at Harris Funeral Home from 2007 and 2013. In August 2013, Stephens informed her employer that she was transgender and would be undergoing genderaffirming surgery, and planned to return to work as a woman. Two weeks later she was fired by the Baptist business owner, Thomas Rost, because she intended to dress as a female.
Stephen’s case was one of the two sex discrimination lawsuits filed by the EEOC in 2014. These lawsuits highlight the need for the federal employment agency to initiate litigation on behalf of transgender people. In the 56page decision on the EEOC v. Harris Funeral Homes case, Judge U.S. District Judge Sean F. Cox gave his summary judgement. Judge Cox ruled that the Title VII does not specifically count protections against gender identity discrimination or transgender status, and hence the statute does not apply in Stephen’s case.
“This Court previously rejected the EEOC’S position that it stated a Title VII claim by virtue of alleging that Stephens’s termination was due to transgender status or gender identity - because those are not protected classes,” Cox wrote. Since Rost has a sincerely held religious belief regarding the immutability of gender, allowing Aimee Stephens to follow the female dress code was an undue burden on his freedom to exercise religion. He backed up his judgement citing the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the precedent set by the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.
“The Court finds that the Funeral Home has shown that the burden is “substantial.” Rost has a sincere religious belief that it would be violating God’s commands if he were to permit an employee who was born a biological male to dress in a traditionally female skirt-suit at one of his funeral homes because doing so would support the idea that sex is a changeable social construct rather than an immutable God-given gift. To enforce Title VII … by requiring the Funeral Home to provide a skirt to and/or allow an employee born a biological male to wear a skirt at work would impose a substantial burden on the ability of Rost to conduct his business in accordance with his sincerely-held religious beliefs.”
If this rationale is maintained, it could get to be controlling legal standard for how transgender workers are to be treated at work, and it speaks to a capable reproach to the case law that recommends Title VII incorporates gender identity.
Above all else, Cox’s decision infers that a specific religious perspective about the changelessness of sex trumps the wide acknowledgment of existence of transgender individuals by the scientific and medical community. Even under the generally traditionalist guidelines in Michigan, having gender-affirming surgeries would have permitted Stephens to be lawfully viewed as female and assigned all things considered on both her driver’s permit and her birth certificate. Her medical records would have been upgraded to designate her as female. However, in spite of the legitimate and medicinal acknowledgment of Stephens’ way of life as female, the court is permitting Rost’s own religious conviction that sex is God-given and permanent to abrogate the official designation of Stephens’ gender.
Basically, the court determined that on the grounds that Rost’s religion does not permit him to perceive transgender individuals, his business does not need to recognize them either. That speaks to an unnerving and perilous infringement on the legitimacy of trans-individuals’ existence, even where they have be able to win some trans-affirming policies with respect to official documentation.
Cox’s judgement is likewise a concerning reentrenchment of ideas conceived out of Hobby Lobby about the free exercise of religion through a business. The Hobby Lobby decision held that an organization couldn’t be forced to give a benefit to its employees that abused the organization’s sincerely held religious convictions.
Cox’s judgement expands that reasoning to hold that an organization can’t be constrained to tolerate the presence of an individual worker who is not acting as per the organization’s religious views. At any rate, Cox’s choice determines that an organization has the privilege to constrain its workers to credit to its specific perspectives about gender - regardless of the possibility that those convictions contradict both statutory and medical standards. For whatever length of time that the business expresses that those convictions are earnestly held matters of confidence, it can constrain employees to follow its own specific understanding of gender. This extension with respect to the idea of free practice of religion is intended to truly encroach on the personal autonomy and self-determination of transgender people.
The perils for the transgender group here reach out beyond just the ideological contentions about the unchanging nature of sex. Transgender people face high levels of segregation and unemployment. A majority of states in the U.S. still have no laws particularly keeping managers from terminating transgender individuals basically to be their identity. Regardless of the best efforts of the Obama organization, there are still no government statues that unequivocally distinguish trans-individuals as a class shielded from employment discrimination.
Various LGBT rights groups have criticized Cox’s judgment. Human Rights Campaign legal executive Sarah Warbelow said in an announcement:
“This is a reckless ruling against a woman who was fired simply because she is transgender. Judge Cox’s deeply disappointing decision has the possibility of setting an incredibly dangerous precedent that purported religious beliefs can be used as an excuse to violate non-discrimination laws. It has the potential of opening a Pandora’s box of discrimination against a wide range of vulnerable communities. We are incredibly concerned about the implications.”
The EEOC lawyers are also unhappy with the judge’s decision.