- R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes will pay $250,000 to settle the sex discrimination lawsuit that, along with two other cases, was the subject of the U.S. Supreme Court's June decision that federal law protects LGBTQ workers from employment discrimination, according to a Dec. 1 announcement.
- The funeral home fired the plaintiff, the late Aimee Stephens, as funeral director when she announced her transition from male to female in 2013, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which filed the lawsuit. The employer also provided men in front-facing positions suits but failed to make clothing assistance available for women working at the funeral home, the agency said.
- "The law is now clear that discrimination against an employee because of his or her transgender status is sex discrimination," EEOC Trial Attorney Dale Price said. "Employers also cannot discriminate on the basis of sex with regard to providing employees with clothing benefits."
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of sex since it became law. But in recent years, a high-profile debate developed over whether the provision included sexual orientation and gender identity. Federal courts handed down diverging opinions on the matter. And the topic inspired a clash between federal agencies.
Despite the Supreme Court answering this question, the ruling inspired some questions in terms of its impact, sources previously told HR Dive. "A lot of things could potentially fall under that ruling," Selendy & Gay PLLC Partner David Flugman said. Employers whose handbooks lacked explicit statements against sexual orientation- and gender identity-based discrimination will need to update their policies. Beyond outright claims of discrimination and harassment, employers may want to protect themselves from potential claims ranging from allegations of differential treatment, religious references, incorrect pronoun use and slights related to bathroom preferences, one attorney told HR Dive.
But the court's opinion did not explicitly address such issues, which means employers must await clarity until courts address them. In the meantime, some employers may decide to limit liability by drafting policies that touch on those topics.