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Courts say religion can't justify workplace discrimination

LGBTQ employees in Ohio concerned about workplace discrimination may find hope in recent federal circuit court decisions claiming that freedom of religion cannot be used to shield an employer from allegations of discrimination. There have been several developments in anti-discrimination law, particularly the impact that it has on LGBTQ employees. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that one transgender worker was a victim of illegal discrimination when she was fired after revealing her transitioning status to her employer.

While this was not the first federal appeals court to hold that LGBTQ employees are protected by the prohibition on sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it was groundbreaking in its dismissal of a defense based on freedom of religion. The Detroit funeral home that was sued in the case said that its religious beliefs were the basis of the dismissal. However, in the 3-0 decision, the court sided with the transgender worker and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

While gender identity and sexual orientation are not explicitly protected under federal civil rights law, the Civil Rights Act does forbid sex discrimination. The court's ruling was based on this prohibition as the employee was fired because she failed to conform to the employer's expectations for her sex. The 6th Circuit also held that the business owner's religious beliefs were not substantially burdened by requiring him to not discriminate on the job. Civil rights attorneys noted that transgender employees frequently face workplace discrimination and that the ruling sets an important precedent.

People who have been fired, demoted or subject to harsh treatment on the job due to their sex, race, religion, age or disability status may be victims of discrimination. An employment lawyer can help workers to fight for their rights and work to put an end to discrimination on the job.

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