BLOGHow Harris Funeral Homes Took Care of One of Its Employees When Her Son Passed Away

By Sarah Kramer Posted on: | August 14, 2019

In her 15 years at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Michelle has experienced a lot of loss. But she’s also experienced a lot of healing.

Five years into her job at Harris, Michelle’s son died. Five months later, her ex-husband took his own life. But in the midst of her grief, it was a great comfort to know that her son, ex-husband, and family would be well taken care of at Harris Funeral Homes.

How could she be sure?

Michelle has witnessed the care and attention of the staff as she worked alongside them.

Michelle works at all three Michigan locations of Harris Funeral Homes: Detroit, Garden City, and Livonia. And while her primary job is cleaning, Michelle does a little bit of everything – she also works in the office or helps with visitations as needed.

That has given her the opportunity to interact with the entire staff of Harris Funeral Homes – including owner Tom Rost. Michelle has even worked side by side with Tom since he often jumps in to help with the everyday tasks. Each year, Tom and Michelle plant geraniums together outside the Garden City location. Tom’s wife Nancy will also come in to spring clean with the staff. And when they’ve remodeled, Tom and Nancy have been there in the thick of it.

Michelle considers them and the rest of the staff to be her extended family and thinks of Harris Funeral Homes as her “home away from home.”

That atmosphere is what Harris Funeral Homes strives to create for everyone who walks in its doors. The staff wants to make sure that the grieving families and friends they serve feel welcome and free to focus on processing their grief.

That’s exactly what Michelle experienced when she found herself on the other side of her work, as a grieving family member rather than a staff member.

Harris Funeral Homes handles everything the family needs. When retrieving the body of the deceased, the staff leaves a rose behind. When Michelle’s son passed away, the staff laid a crucifix on him at the family’s request.

“Tom and the staff here took care of all the details, so I wouldn’t have to – things that I would have had a harder time dealing with,” said Michelle.

One of Michelle’s fellow employees, who managed the visitation for both her son and her ex-husband, stayed at the funeral home until midnight as Michelle and her children grieved. Then she was back again the next day, ready to greet and serve Michelle and her family.

The day of a funeral, Tom and his staff ensure that everything is welcoming and professional. They want every family to feel like they’re the only family being served at the time – that there is no one more important. Often, Tom will personally open the door for the guests as they arrive.

And once a funeral is over, Tom and his staff continue to care for those they serve. Tom personally calls grieving family members to see if there is anything that he can do for them. And he means it. Tom and other staff members have driven flowers and pictures to a family member’s home and even picked up groceries for a widow.

It was no different for Michelle. After the funeral for Michelle’s son, Tom called Michelle’s father to see if there was anything more he could do for their family.

And when Michelle was struggling with grief after the funeral, Tom showed her compassion and understanding.

“After losing my son, I may not have been able to hold a job,” Michelle said, “and here, they’ve been there for me, anything I’ve ever needed… They understand when it becomes too overwhelming for me.”

Walking through the death of her son and ex-husband in one year was devastating and difficult for Michelle. But it has also given her a greater appreciation for what they do at Harris Funeral Homes.

“As wonderful as I thought everyone here was, you know, until that point, I really did not realize… [the importance of] all the things that everyone here does,” Michelle said. “Every family is well taken care of, with whatever they need.”

Unfortunately, a lawsuit is threatening this family-owned business, which has been serving the Detroit area for over 100 years.

You see, in order to serve every grieving person with excellence and professionalism, Harris Funeral Homes asks its employees to agree to a code of conduct, including a sex-specific dress code. But in response to a complaint from a former employee who decided to no longer comply with that dress code, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) set out to punish the funeral home for applying that policy – even though the law allows business owners to maintain such requirements.

So how could the EEOC do that?

Well, it decided that the word “sex” in federal law should be redefined to mean “gender identity.”

But business owners should be able to rely on what the law says and not what unelected government officials want it to say. Thankfully, the federal government has since reversed its position in this case and now agrees with Harris. But the ACLU continues to push this lawsuit forward – and it is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alliance Defending Freedom will be representing Harris Funeral Homes before the High Court on October 8.

Please keep Harris Funeral Homes and the ADF attorneys handling this case in your prayers, as we work to ensure that Harris is free to continue serving grieving people with compassion and professionalism.

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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