The Trump administration is asking the Supreme Court to set a legal precedent which would make it acceptable for an employer to fire a person for being transgender.
The administration explained why it believes transgender discrimination is legal in the workplace under the current federal law Title VII, which prohibits workplace discrimination, in a court filing yesterday (August 16).
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court agreed to hear three cases which looked at whether Title VII applies to LGBTQ+ workers.
One of the lawsuits, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), involved a transgender woman who was fired from the funeral home after she transitioned.
Aimee Stephens reportedly presented as a man when she began work at the Michigan company in 2007, however after six years there she confirmed her true identity and announced plans to transition. The company’s owner, Thomas Rost, fired her.
The Trump administration on Friday took one of its most agressive steps yet to legalize anti-transgender discrimination by telling the Supreme Court that federal law allows firing workers solely for being transgender, arguing a funeral home could fire a transgender woman. Monster
— @kendartt (@kenneth_kerrick) August 16, 2019
The US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled the firing was discriminatory, explaining:
The unrefuted facts show that the Funeral Home fired Stephens because she refused to abide by her employer’s stereotypical conception of her sex.
Discrimination against employees, either because of their failure to conform to sex stereotypes or their transgender and transitioning status, is illegal under Title VII.
It is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex.
“The Trump administration just told the Supreme Court that it's legal to fire workers for being transgender”
“workplace discrimination based on sex does not apply to transgender workers”
WTF? Transgenders are not humans, so they don’t deserve equal protection as everyone else? pic.twitter.com/8k8KhnttVv
— Alvin Siegfried Leito (@AlvinLeito) August 17, 2019
The 1964 Civil Rights Act states employers can’t discriminate based on sex, race, color, religion, and national origin.
However, in Friday’s filing the Trump administration argued when the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964 ‘the ordinary public meaning of ‘sex’ was biological sex’ – therefore, in their opinion, workplace discrimination based on sex does not apply to transgender workers.
Earlier this week, Bloomberg Law reported, as per Business Insider, the Justice Department was seeking to persuade the EEOC to support its stance that businesses discriminating against transgender employees would not be in violation of the law.
The court filing said:
In 1964, the ordinary public meaning of ‘sex’ was biological sex. It did not encompass transgender status, which Stephens and the Sixth Circuit describe as a disconnect between an individual’s biological sex and gender identity.
In the particular context of Title VII — legislation originally designed to eliminate employment discrimination against racial and other minorities — it was especially clear that the prohibition on discrimination because of ‘sex’ referred to unequal treatment of men and women in the workplace.
As it stands, Title VII prohibits treating an individual less favorably than similarly situated individuals of the opposite sex.
It simply does not speak to discrimination because of an individual’s gender identity or a disconnect between an individual’s gender identity and the individual’s sex.
Trump administration took an aggressive step to legalize transgender discrimination — telling Supreme Court that fed laws allow firing workers just for being transgender. Arguing a Michigan funeral home could fire a trans woman for wanting to wear feminine clothing on the job.
— Jason Rose (@transyouthvoter) August 16, 2019
The Obama administration previously asserted Title VII did protect transgender workers and since then the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has upheld the Obama-era rule, Business Insider report. Therefore, the arguments put forward by the Trump administration are a big setback.
The Supreme Court is set to hear Stephens’ case on October 8.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.