Tag Archives: religion

6th Circuit Holds Firing Because of Transgender Status Violates Title VII

Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which covers Tennessee, Michigan, Kentucky and Ohio, issued a significant Title VII ruling.  In EEOC v. R.G &G.R. Harris Funeral Homes the Court held that discrimination on the basis of transgender and transitioning status is sex discrimination in violation of Title VII.

The EEOC sued the funeral home after it fired an employee, Stephens, who was transitioning from male to female.  It was undisputed that Stephens was fired because he was “no longer going to represent himself as a man” and “wanted to dress like a woman”.  In 2016  a Michigan  District Court dismissed the case based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (‘RFRA”),  because the employer’s sincerely held religious belief “is that a person’s sex is an immutable God-given gift”.  The EEOC appealed.

In reversing the District Court and rejecting the RFRA defense the Court of Appeals held that Stephens was fired because of her failure to conform to sex stereotypes, in violation of Title VII.   While this type of claim has been recognized under Title VII since 1989 when it comes to men and women not conforming to the traditional stereotypes for their gender ( e.g. “you are not feminine enough”‘; “you dress too masculine”), the 6th Circuit took it a step further with this holding:

Discrimination on the basis of transgender and transitioning status is necessarily discrimination on the basis of sex, and thus the EEOC should have had the opportunity to prove that the Funeral Home violated Title VII by firing Stephens because she is transgender and transitioning from male to female.”

This is a landmark ruling that employers located within the 6th Circuit must adhere to going forward.  If you have questions about how it impacts your business, give us a call.

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6th Circuit Rejects Religious Challenge To ACA

Recently the 6th Circuit denied an appeal by Eden Foods, Inc. (“Eden Foods”) that claimed the Affordable Care Act’s (“ACA”) contraception mandate violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Michael Potter, a Roman Catholic, and the sole owner and shareholder of Eden Foods, filed suit against the federal government claiming that the contraception mandate would interfere with his and his company’s exercise of religion.

The Court held that a secular, for profit company is not entitled to protection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  The three judge panel followed the lead of another 6th Circuit Panel’s September 17th ruling upholding the denial of an injunction against the contraception mandate.  That case was filed by auto parts manufacturer Autocam Corp.  The Autocam opinion concluded that the right of free exercise of religion never extends to secular, for profit companies.

In contrast to these decisions by the 6th Circuit the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to individuals and secular organizations.

The U.S. Supreme Court may have to resolve this issue.  Stay tuned!

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Domino’s Challenges the ACA

This week Domino’s did more than deliver pizzas.  On Monday Domino’s and its founder sued several federal agencies and officials in Michigan federal court alleging the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional.

The company’s founder, Thomas Monaghan, contends the contraception mandate violates his strongly held Catholic religious beliefs.  Previously, Domino’s had designed its health insurance plan to exclude contraception, sterilization and abortion as reimbursable expenses.

Monaghan contends the contraception mandate of the ACA violates the US Constitution’s protection of freedom of religion and also violates the Religious Restoration Act.  He and the company seek an injunction barring enforcement of the mandate, costs and attorney’s fees.

Stay tuned.

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