Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. R.G. &. G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, No. 16-2424 (6th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Stephens, born biologically male, worked as a funeral director for a corporation that operates Michigan funeral homes. Stephens was terminated shortly after informing the owner, Rost, that she intended to transition and would represent herself as a woman while at work. The EEOC investigated Stephens’s allegations of sex discrimination and learned that the Funeral Home provided its male public-facing employees with clothing that complied with its dress code while female public-facing employees received no such allowance. The EEOC sued, alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by terminating Stephens’s employment on the basis of her transgender or transitioning status and refusal to conform to sex-based stereotypes and administering a discriminatory clothing policy. The Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of the EEOC. The Funeral Home engaged in unlawful discrimination against Stephens on the basis of her sex and did not establish that applying Title VII’s proscriptions against sex discrimination would substantially burden Rost’s religious exercise in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Even if Rost’s religious exercise were substantially burdened, the EEOC has established that enforcing Title VII is the least restrictive means of furthering the government’s compelling interest in eradicating workplace discrimination against Stephens. The EEOC may bring the clothing claim in this case because an investigation into the clothing-allowance policy was reasonably expected to grow out of the original discrimination charge.