On Wednesday, March 6, 2018, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that discrimination against transgender/LGBTQ employees is discrimination based on sex, a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. R.G. &. G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc., the employee, born biologically male, worked as a funeral director for a corporation that operates Michigan funeral homes. 2018 WL 1177669, at *1 (C.A.6 (Mich.), 2018). The employee was terminated soon after informing the owner of the funeral home that she planned to transition and would represent herself as a woman. After receiving the employee’s complaint, the EEOC investigated the allegations of sex discrimination and learned in addition that the funeral home had in place a discriminatory clothing policy, providing males with clothing adhering with the dress codes, while woman received no such benefit. The EEOC filed suit on behalf of the employee, alleging violations of Title VII based on the termination of the employee and the discriminatory clothing policy.
The Sixth Circuit ultimately found in favor of the EEOC on the unlawful discrimination claim, holding that firing an employee “because of their failure to conform to sex stereotypes or their transgender and transitioning status, is illegal under Title VII.” Furthermore, the Court determined that the funeral home could not use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a defense because there would be no substantial burden to their religious exercise by continuing to employ the individual.