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Amicus Brief: EEOC vs. Harris Funeral Homes

PDF icon 2017-04-26_file-stamped_updated_eeoc_v_harris_funeral_homes_amicus_brief.pdf


(Summary courtesy of the ADL)

At issue in this case is a for-profit employer’s assertion of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) as legal defense to a violation of a federal workplace anti-discrimination law – Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Acts. A trial court found that a for-profit funeral home violated Title VII by firing a transgender female employee based on sex-stereotyping. The court, however, in an unprecedented ruling found that RFRA exempted the employer from the Title VII violation based on its religious beliefs about sex roles and gender identity. RRC/JRC joined an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit arguing that the trial court’s application of RFRA was erroneous for two reasons. First, long-standing U.S. Supreme Court Establishment Clause case law prohibits religious exemptions that cause harm to third parties. And second, the employer could not meet its evidentiary burden under RFRA of showing that its exercise of religion was “substantially burdened” because there was no connection between its stated religious beliefs and the termination, which violated Title VII.