Cleary Gottlieb and TLDEF File Amicus Brief in Support of Worker Fired for Being Transgender

July 3, 2019

Together with Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF),Cleary Gottlieb filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of Aimee Stephens in her case before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2013, a Michigan funeral home fired Ms. Stephens from her job because she is a transgender woman.

The case R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission could reverse longstanding precedent that transgender people are protected from employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The amicus brief asks the Supreme Court to affirm a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that ruled Ms. Stephen’s employer violated Title VII, which prohibits sex discrimination in employment, when they fired her for being transgender.

As explained in the brief, Aimee Stephen’s abrupt firing from her job is a straightforward case of sex discrimination under Title VII. To hold otherwise would unfairly single out and exclude 1.55 million transgender people from existing employment protections enjoyed by all other workers. While demonstrating that the Sixth Circuit’s ruling should be affirmed as a matter of the straightforward application of binding precedent, it also explains that should the Court embark on further defining the meaning of the term “sex” in Title VII, it should do so with an understanding of the reality of the experience transgender people in the United States.

Cleary partner Howard Zelbo, who lead the Cleary team, said, “The law should not, and Title VII emphatically does not, permit discrimination against transgender people for who they are.”

A ruling against Aimee Stephens would break from decades of established case law and strip away employment protections from transgender people and anyone who might be considered “too feminine” or “too masculine.”

The amicus brief was organized by TLDEF in partnership with Cleary, with support from 33 other signatories. The signers of the brief consist of local and state-based organizations from every region of the United States who directly serve transgender people, particularly those most vulnerable to discrimination.

To read the TLDEF press release, click here. To view the amicus brief in support of Ms. Stephens, click here.