The Sixth Circuit ruled this week federal anti-discrimination laws apply to transgender individuals in the workplace. The Sixth Circuit covers the states of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
In the case of EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, the court held federal laws dealing with discrimination in the workplace apply to transgender individuals. The case is an important ruling for transgender individuals in the workplace. Judge Karen Nelson Moore based the opinion on 2 reasons:
(1) Gender Stereotyping
Judge Moore wrote discriminating against transgender individuals is a form of “gender stereotyping“. Previously, the Supreme Court held employment actions motivated by gender stereotyping are illegal. Other court decisions have interpreted this Supreme Court ruling combined with Title VII’s sex discrimination provision as prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. For example, adverse employment actions against (1) a woman based on how “lady like” she acts or (2) a man whose employer feels acts too “effeminate” would be illegal. The Sixth Circuit held that discrimination based on an individual’s transgender status is a form of illegal gender stereotyping.
(2) Sex based discrimination includes transgender individuals
Judge Moore wrote, transgender discrimination is in fact sex based. Judge Moore stated it is impossible to fire a transgender individual “based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex.” Any business that mistreats a worker on the basis of her “transgender or transitioning status,” then, is taking sex into account—in violation of Title VII.
The Defendant in the case said they are currently reviewing the decision before deciding if they want to request the Supreme Court to take the case.