Harris Funeral Homes to Pay $250,000 to Settle Sex Discrimination Lawsuit Involving Transgender Employee

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Transgender Funeral Director Lost Job After She Announced Gender Transition, Federal Agency Charged

DETROIT – Detroit-based R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. will pay $250,000 to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s 2014 lawsuit, Harris discharged the late Aimee Stephens as funeral director because she announced she was transitioning from male to female (EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:14-cv-13710). The EEOC further alleged that Harris provided male front-facing employees suits but provided no clothing assistance to female employees until October 2014, when it began providing them a clothing stipend.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settle­ment through its conciliation process. The litigation between the EEOC and Harris is concluded by the consent decree, pursuant to which Harris will pay $130,000 in back pay and compensatory damages to Stephens’s estate and $120,000 in attorney fees to Stephens’s attorneys. The company will pay a total of $3,705 in clothing benefits for the period of September 2012 to the present, to be divided among approximately 17 female front-facing employees. Harris will also pro­vide anti-discrimination training, revise its anti-discrimination policy, and implement new procedures for handling discrimination complaints.

“The law is now clear that discrimination against an employee because of his or her transgender status is sex discrimination,” said EEOC Trial Attorney Dale Price. “Employers also cannot discriminate on the basis of sex with regard to providing employees with clothing benefits.”

The EEOC’s Detroit Field Office is part of the Indianapolis District Office, which oversees Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and parts of Ohio.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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