The Trump administration wants to make it easier to fire women who act too ‘masculine’

The Trump administration wants to make it easier to fire women who act too 'masculine'

Flickr / Ted Eytan

The Trump administration’s hatred of transgender people is driving it to push a terrible legal argument that will have far-reaching ramifications and undermine protections for all women in the workforce.

The Trump team is essentially arguing that it’s perfectly fine to fire a woman for wearing pants. It all turns on legal issue of “sex stereotyping.”

“We are beyond the day when an employer could evaluate employees by assuming or insisting that they matched the stereotype associated with their group.”

That is a quote from Justice William Brennan which was penned as part of the plurality opinion in the Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins ruling which is a 30-year-old Supreme Court Case.

In 1989, Anne Hopkins sued Price Waterhouse, an accounting firm, for sex discrimination claiming that they violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Hopkins claimed that she was denied a partnership in the firm because she would not conform to gender stereotypes. Her co-workers used words like aggressive and demanding to describe her, and one of her written evaluations said that she needed a “course in charm school.”

The Supreme Court did not reach a majority opinion in the case, but the majority did agree that sex stereotyping should not be allowed. The dissenting opinion in the case came from Justice Anthony Kennedy who argued that “Title VII creates no independent cause of action for sex stereotyping.”

The Trump team steps in it

Fast forward to the here and now to a new case that has made its way to the Supreme Court: R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

This case focuses on Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman that was terminated by the funeral home for her transition. Stephens was fired for attempting to work in the attire deemed appropriate for females per the company’s employee handbook. Upon her termination, Stephens filed a complaint with the EEOC believing that the funeral home acted unlawfully and discriminated against her for being transgender.

A Michigan district court ruled in favor of the funeral home claiming that Title VII offers no protections for transgender persons and that gender identity is not a protected class. Furthermore, the court ruled that the owner of the funeral home, Thomas Rost, had the right to fire Stephens due to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as Rost claims being a devout Christian means that he does not believe a person can change genders.

Here’s where the Trump administration comes in. The administration is arguing for the funeral home and trying to justify the discrimination Stephens received. It boils down to their claim that it is should only be considered sex discrimination if a company requires one sex to conform to gender stereotypes, but not the other.

In other words: since the owner of Harris Funeral Homes doesn’t “believe” a person can be transgender, he is officially firing her because she is not dressing like a man. The Trump team is justifying this move because the funeral home will also fire a woman that doesn’t wear a skirt. Therefore, there is no inequality.

Yet, in making that argument, the Trump team is saying that it is perfectly acceptable to fire a woman for wearing pants. The administration has no problem trampling all over the rights of women in this country as long as it furthers their crusade against the transgender population.

More at Think Progress.

 

 

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