This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on an employment discrimination case that came out of Michigan. The question in the case is essentially whether federal law prohibits firing an employee because they are transgender. The Supreme Court’s ruling could profoundly affect the rights of transgender workers nationwide.
Sadly, the woman who started the case will not be able to find out the Court’s decision. She died on May 12 at age 59.
Fired over a uniform
In 2013, she was working at a funeral home in suburban Detroit. Though she had already transitioned to being female outside of work, she continued to present as a man at the funeral home. Then she told her boss that she was a transgender woman and that she would begin wearing a woman’s uniform at work. The funeral home fired her shortly afterward for declining to continue wearing the men’s uniform.
The woman filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and sued the funeral home, saying that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers from being terminated on the basis of being transgender, due to the statute’s ban on discrimination on the basis of “sex.”
The case reached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which sided with the plaintiff. The funeral home appealed to the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments last year.
Making employment discrimination laws work for you
The outcome of this case will likely hinge in large part on the Court’s interpretation of the Civil Rights Act’s prohibition of employment discrimination based on sex. Specifically, whether it protects people based on the gender they were assigned at birth or the gender they currently identify as.
Employment discrimination law in Michigan is complicated. A worker who believes they were the victim of discrimination in hiring, firing, or benefits, or who experienced a toxic work environment, can turn to an experienced employment law attorney for information, guidance and advocacy in state or federal court.