Detroit-based R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. will pay $250,000 to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
According to the EEOC’s 2014 lawsuit, Harris discharged the late Aimee Stephens as funeral director because she announced she was transitioning from male to female (EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:14-cv-13710). The EEOC further alleged that the funeral home provided male front-facing employees suits but provided no clothing assistance to female employees until October 2014, when it began providing them a clothing stipend.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of sex since it became law. But in recent years, a debate developed in the courts over whether the provision included sexual orientation and gender identity. The Supreme Court recently answer this question, finding that protection against transgender discrimination does exist pursuant to Title VII.
The law is now clear that discrimination against an employee because of his or her transgender status is sex discrimination. Employers also cannot discriminate on the basis of sex with regard to providing employees with clothing benefits.