In the US, it would otherwise be legal to fire someone based entirely on their gender identity. For instance, if you come out as trans to your boss, they would be able to fire you. Not anymore, as a recent case shows that it is illegal under Title VII to fire someone for being trans.
Huge victory for transgender rights and workers' rights: "Discrimination against employees, either because of their failure to conform to sex stereotypes or their transgender and transitioning status, is illegal under Title VII." #courtsmatter https://t.co/D8uz8IuZJZ
— The Leadership Conference (@civilrightsorg) March 7, 2018
It also refuses to allow the RFRA, or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as a shield to allow discrimination to occur. Many people hide behind laws like the RFRA as a means to fire or refuse to hire people because of their LGBT status, and this had a long time coming.
The appeals court followed a transgender woman named Aimee Stevens, who was fired by a funeral home director after she came out as transgender and expressed a desire to transition. The funeral director is a devout Christian, and therefore planned to use religious freedom laws to deny Stevens employment.
CA6 reverses district court ruling in favor of Mich funeral home (allowing #RFRA exemption), and grants Summary jJudgment in favor of EEOC and #transgender employee in #TitleVII employment discrimination claim. Opinion: https://t.co/YhhLzRWhuG #TransRights pic.twitter.com/bkazeSyU0i
— Equality Case Files (@EQCF) March 7, 2018
The case file states:
“Discrimination against employees, either because of their failure to conform to sex stereotypes or their transgender and transitioning status, is illegal under Title VII. The unrefuted facts show that the Funeral Home fired Stephens because she refused to abide by her employer’s stereotypical conception of her sex, and therefore the EEOC is entitled to summary judgment as to its unlawful-termination claim. RFRA provides the Funeral Home with no relief because continuing to employ Stephens would not, as a matter of law, substantially burden Rost’s religious exercise, and even if it did, the EEOC has shown that enforcing Title VII here is the least restrictive means of furthering its compelling interest in combating and eradicating sex discrimination.”
The court has shown that allowing a transwoman to work at his funeral did not infringe on his right to express his religion.
The key in the 6th Circuit case is not that Title VII protects transgender workers— that’s been true since 2004 in Smith v. Salem— the key is that because it’s sex discrimination, RFRA doesn’t provide refuge for discriminatory employers.
— Anthony Michael Kreis (@AnthonyMKreis) March 7, 2018
Some people have also expressed the idea that the case did not portray that is is against the law to fire transpeople, but that case itself showed that people cannot use religious freedom laws to discriminate against people.
When it comes to transgender people, many are unable to get a job, and many more who do have a job are underemployed. As a result, tacking on laws that allow employers to discriminate and fire trans-people can be disastrous. This is why it is detrimental to use religion as a way to deny people employment.
When it comes to enforcing Title VII protections for minorities, the court notes that there is no exception for religious practices. That is why the judge decided to reverse the decision.