Transgender woman sues metro Detroit funeral homes after losing her job

Posted at 6:35 PM, Oct 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-03 18:35:49-04

Should someone be fired because they are transgender? A transgender woman has sued the owner of several metro-Detroit funeral homes saying it happened to her.

The owner of the Harris Funeral Homes doesn’t deny he fired an employee because she is transgender.  He says it is his religious right.

Aimee Stephens of Redford  says she worked as a funeral director for Harris Funeral Homes which has locations in Livonia, Garden City, and Detroit. She says she had a sparkling work record. Then in 2013 she gave her boss a letter. She shared that she always felt she was born in the wrong body, is a transgender woman and planned to start dressing in appropriate business attire for a woman.

Next thing she knew - she lost her job. She sued. A lower court ruled in favor of the funeral home.

“That’s wrong,” said Daniel Korobkin, ACLU Deputy Legal Director.  “That is discrimination."

ACLU Deputy Legal Director Daniel Korobkin is part of the legal team that will represent her as the U.S. Court of Appears hears the case. He says it is gender discrimination.

“In America we employ people based on their qualifications, not whether someone is living up to their employers stereotypes of how a woman or man should behave,” said Korobkin.

“Here we have an employee who violated the company’s sex specific dress code. And that sex specific dress code is in place in order to ensure the utmost sensitivity to grieving families and the clients of the funeral home,” said Doug Wardlow,  an attorney from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group that defends religious rights.
He says his client runs an openly Christian business and that living as a transgender person violates his faith.

“He does that work and runs his business according to his Christian principles. That includes the belief that a person’s sex is a gift from God that can’t and should not be changed,” said Wardlow.

The case will be heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinatti on October 4.