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Court says religion does not excuse workplace discrimination

Texas readers may be interested to learn that a federal appeals court recently ruled that employers cannot use religion as an excuse to violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The decision, which was handed down by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on March 7, is the first of its kind.

The case before the court involved a transgender woman who was fired from a Michigan funeral home in 2013. According to court documents, the woman was terminated soon after informing her boss that she was transgender and would soon begin her transition from male to female. A lower court ruled that allowing the woman to continue working at the funeral home would have encroached on the owner's sincere religious beliefs. However, in a unanimous decision, the appeals court ruled that Title VII protects transgender workers from sex-based discrimination, whether or not that discrimination is based on religious beliefs.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was a co-plaintiff on the lawsuit, and the American Civil Liberties Union argued the case before the court. A representative of the ACLU said that the ruling was "important" and would help ensure that transgender employees are protected from religious-based workplace discrimination in the future.

Transgender employees facing workplace discrimination might have a strong legal case. Examples of workplace discrimination may include sexual harassment, a hostile working environment and retaliation for speaking out. A transgender employee might be able to learn more about his or her legal rights by speaking with an attorney familiar with workplace discrimination. Likewise, employers might avoid lawsuits by consulting with an employment law attorney when creating their workplace anti-discrimination policies.

Source: NBC, "Religion can't be used to justify workplace discrimination, court rules," Julie Moreau, March 8, 2018

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