Wednesday, April 19, 2017

6th Circuit tees up decision on LGBT discrimination coverage under Title VII

The 6th Circuit is currently considering whether Title VII’s definition of “sex discrimination”.

EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes alleges that the funeral home fired its funeral director because she is transgender and transitioning from male to female. The Eastern District of Michigan concluded that Title VII does not expressly cover LGTB discrimination, and limited the sex discrimination claim to a sexual stereotyping claim.

The court will hold oral argument later this year. The import of this case cannot be understated. Circuit court all over the country are lining up on both sides of this issue. Earlier this month, the 7th Circuit (not renowned for its liberal views) concluded that Title VII’s definition of “sex” expressly covers sexual orientation and gender identity. That decision aligns with the EEOC’s view, but contrasts against holdings of the 11th and 2nd Circuits.

As the circuits take sides on this issue, it becomes more and more likely that a losing party will appeal to the Supreme Court, which will be tempted to resolve this issue.

Stay tuned. The oral argument and ultimate decision in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes is one of the key cases to watch in 2017 and 2018.