A new filing in a discrimination lawsuit is raising concerns that the Trump administration will back off the federal government’s efforts to protect transgender rights.
Aimee Stephens was fired in 2013 from her embalming job at a Michigan funeral home after notifying her employer that she planned to have sex reassignment surgery and would return to work “as my true self.”
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the funeral home for discrimination, and after losing in court last year, appealed to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But Thursday, the commission asked for a 30-day delay to file its legal arguments “because of Administration-related changes at the Commission.”
Stephens now worries the anti-discrimination authorities won’t fight for her rights.
The ACLU of Michigan asked to intervene the case on Stephens’ behalf because “recent actions by the government have given Ms. Stephens significant cause for concern that the EEOC will not continue to adequately represent her interests,” according to court records.
“Given the recent change in presidential administration, Ms. Stephens may bring a different perspective to the sex discrimination and religious exercise issues at stake in this appeal,” the filing stated. “She should not be left to rely on the arguments made by the government, which may now decide to change its position on the issues under review.”
A commission spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
In recent years, the commission has aggressively pushed for protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers under Civil Rights Act of 1964. To do that, it interpreted the law’s ban on sex discrimination as covering sexual orientation and gender identity.
Lipnic has not always been on board, dissenting from a commission decision that a transgender woman had been discriminated against because she was denied equal access to female bathrooms. She also dissented from a decision finding a case of sexual orientation discrimination to be a violation of the Civil Rights Act. Lipnic did join in a decision holding that discrimination based on gender identity is prohibited under the law.
“We don’t know what the EEOC is going to do going forward,” said Jay Kaplan, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT project, “but we believe Ms. Stephens needs to be a part of this case because it’s about protecting her rights.”