R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

To book an interview, click on the "Book an Interview" button on any page at ADFmedia.org.
Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Description:  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit over the discharge of an employee who refused to comply with a Michigan funeral home’s sex-specific dress code, which requires employees to dress in a manner sensitive to grieving family members and friends. The EEOC attempted to force the business to allow a biologically male employee to wear a female uniform while interacting with the public.

US Supreme Court to hear arguments on lower court decision that redefined ‘sex’ in federal law

Press conference Tuesday following oral arguments in pivotal case affecting family businesses, women’s shelters, female athletes, others
Friday, October 04, 2019


WHO: ADF Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch; R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes owner Thomas Rost and his wife, Nancy; other ADF clients

WHAT: Press conference immediately after Supreme Court oral arguments in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

WHEN: Tuesday, Oct. 8, at approximately 12:15 p.m. EDT, immediately following oral arguments

WHERE: Outside U.S. Supreme Court, 1 First St. NE, Washington


  1. Harris Funeral Homes declined to allow a male funeral director to violate the company’s sex-specific dress code by dressing and presenting as a woman when working with its clients—the family and friends of deceased loved ones.
  2. Unelected federal bureaucrats used the funeral home as a test case, convincing a lower court to rewrite the meaning of “sex” discrimina­tion and reject what the public and the U.S. Supreme Court have understood it to mean for more than half a century.
  3. ADF is asking the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court’s rewriting of federal law, declare that Americans can rely on what the law says, and forbid unelected government officials from changing the law to illegitimately accomplish what they have been unable to achieve through Congress.
WASHINGTON – Alliance Defending Freedom Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch will participate in a news conference immediately following his oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Bursch will argue on behalf of Harris Funeral Homes in the case and will be joined at the news conference by owner Thomas Rost and his wife, Nancy.

Last month, a diverse array of groups, officials, and experts filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the high court arguing that unelected government officials can’t usurp the role of Congress by redefining the word “sex” in federal law to mean “gender identity.” In Harris Funeral Homes’ own brief filed with the court, ADF attorneys explained that allowing that to happen “will cause problems in employment law, reduce bodily-privacy protections for everyone, and erode equal opportunities for women and girls, among many other consequences.”

“Americans should be able to rely on what the law says. Redefining ‘sex’ to mean ‘gender identity’ creates chaos, is unfair to women and girls, and puts employers in difficult situations,” said Bursch, who served as Michigan’s solicitor general from 2011-13. “Title VII and other civil rights laws, like Title IX, are in place to protect equal opportunities for women; changing ‘sex’ to mean ‘gender identity’ undermines that.”

Other ADF clients who could be affected by the outcome of the case will also be present at the press conference:
  • Bianca Soule, mother of high school female athlete Selina Soule, who lost honors and opportunities at elite levels because of a Connecticut athletic conference policy that allows boys who identify as girls to compete in girls’ sports. When athletes and parents complained about two boys taking 15 track-and-field state titles in the girls’ division, an official said that girls have the right to participate but not the right to win.
  • Dr. Allan M. Josephson, the former chief of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Louisville, who was demoted, harassed, and then effectively fired after urging caution about rushing children experiencing gender dysphoria into life-altering medical treatments and surgeries before science has adequately examined these procedures and determined what’s best for patients.
  • Alexis Lightcap, who, while a student at Boyertown High School in Pennsylvania, unexpectedly encountered a boy in the girls’ locker room because of an unannounced school policy that disregarded the bodily privacy rights of students by opening locker rooms and restrooms to students of the opposite sex based on those students’ beliefs about their own gender. When she and other students raised concerns, school officials told them to “act natural” and get used to having members of the opposite sex in private spaces.
In 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled in favor of Harris Funeral Homes. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit reversed, ruling that the federal government can force Rost and his business to allow a male funeral director who identifies as female to violate the business’s professional dress code—a dress code that is in accord with industry standard and federal law—by dressing as a woman when working with grieving families. This came six years after the employee agreed to follow the dress code at the time of hire.

The 6th Circuit’s decision redefined “sex” in Title VII to conflict with the word’s well-understood meaning when the law was enacted in 1964. Title VII is a federal law intended to ensure equal opportunities in employment, regardless of a person’s race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. Under the 6th Circuit’s ruling, employers cannot maintain sex-specific policies, including policies for overnight facilities, showers, restrooms, locker rooms, and employee dress.

Although the federal government now agrees with the funeral home, the American Civil Liberties Union is arguing on behalf of the former employee that the Supreme Court should rewrite the law.
  • One-page summary: R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
# # # | Ref. 41640

Additional resources: R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Scroll down to view additional resources pertaining to this case and its surrounding issue.
Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Previous news releases:

  • 2019-08-26: Broad support filed with US Supreme Court against judicial redefinition of ‘sex’ to mean ‘gender identity’
  • 2019-08-16: ADF to Supreme Court: Redefining ‘sex’ problematic, not job of judges, govt agencies
  • 2019-04-22: US Supreme Court to weigh in on whether EEOC, courts can redefine ‘sex’ without Congress
  • 2018-07-20: ADF asks US Supreme Court to weigh in on whether EEOC and court can redefine ‘sex’ without Congress
  • 2018-03-07: 6th Circuit: Feds can strong-arm those who minister to the grieving
  • 2017-10-03: Michigan funeral home asks appeals court to uphold respectful dress code for employees
  • 2016-08-18: Funeral home buries federal govt in Michigan religious freedom case
  • 2016-08-10: Feds say political strong-arming more important than respecting grieving families
  • 2016-04-08: ADF: Govt shouldn’t strong-arm those who minister to the grieving


  • John Bursch: The ACLU’s own Twitter feed shows what’s at stake when ‘sex’ is redefined (The Hill, 2019-11-27)
  • Alexis Lightcap: Protesters won’t silence me on transgender issues (Morning Call, 2019-11-20)
  • John Bursch: Key question in Detroit funeral home case at Supreme Court: Can we rely on the law? (Townhall, 2019-10-31)
  • John Bursch: Difficult issues involving human sexuality require dialogue, not scorn, misinformation (The Hill, 2019-10-15)
  • John Bursch: Race and sex are fundamentally different. That should matter to SCOTUS (National Law Journal, 2019-10-10)
  • Michael Farris: Pivotal issue for Supreme Court: Who has the power to make the rules? (Inside Sources, 2019-10-08)
  • Maureen Collins: How a Supreme Court case about a funeral home could affect Christians across the nation (Christian Post, 2019-10-08)
  • Jay Hobbs: In Harris Funeral Homes Supreme Court case, we should ask ‘Am I next?’ (Ricochet, 2019-10-07)
  • John Bursch: Gender ideologues, bureaucrats and judges take aim at small businesses (Acton Institute, 2019-10-02)
  • John Bursch: What the ACLU didn’t tell you at the Emmys about the Harris Supreme Court case (Washington Examiner, 2019-09-26)
  • John Bursch: Much at stake in transgender Supreme Court case (Detroit News, 2019-09-25)
  • John Bursch: SCOTUS must reaffirm the meaning of ‘sex’ in antidiscrimination law (National Review, 2019-08-19)
  • John Bursch: This lawsuit over ‘sex’ and ‘gender identity’ will have sweeping implications (Daily Signal, 2019-07-26)
  • Thomas Rost: I did what was best for my business. Will the Supreme Court punish me for it? (Washington Post, 2019-07-03)
  • John Bursch: HHS restores legal meaning of ‘sex’—what will US Supreme Court, Congress do? (The Hill, 2019-06-13)
  • Kristen Waggoner: The Left preaches diversity while forcing conformity through culture and courts (The Federalist, 2019-06-11)
  • Kristen Waggoner: Bureaucrats shouldn’t be involved in gender politics at funeral homes (Daily Caller, 2019-05-01)
  • Jeana Hallock: SCOTUS to rule on whether men can wear women’s clothes on the job (The Federalist, 2019-04-29)
  • Thomas Rost: EEOC uses my funeral homes to rewrite laws (Detroit News, 2019-04-25)
  • David Cortman: Keep the government out of the grieving process (National Review, 2019-04-23)
  • Jay Hobbs: Should grieving families be forced to deal with a cross-dressing funeral home employee? (Daily Caller, 2018-11-25)

Legal documents, related news, and other related resources available in the right panel when this page is viewed at ADFmedia.org.