The funeral industry and the government

For those of us in the good ol’ U.S.A. yesterday was the national holiday that celebrated the birth of our nation.  The Revolutionary War period is one that I think of when we had good, old fashioned representative democracy without “Big” government.  Now, a lot can be said for a bigger, wider, government, but there are also arguments from the other side.

I just happened to notice several articles over the 4th of July that deal with the operations of funeral homes and how our governments, in different locales, set different rules and procedures.  So, here are three articles that deal with current situations in our industry.

Massachusetts to double coroner fees on cremationsThis article that you can read about here states that on August 1, the state of Massachusetts will set the fee for coroner viewing and signatures at $200 – an increase of $100 over the current price charged to funeral directors for this required service.  Some funeral directors think this charge is unwarranted but the state charges back that the coroners’ offices have been underfunded for years and a new facility and expanded hours will make coroner service better.

Massachusetts reviews over 30,000 cremations per year meaning that this increased fee will bring in $3 million to the state from cremation families.

North Carolina House Bill 554 — This bill, the “Funeral Practice Licensure Technical Corrections” bill has unanimously passed the House and is making its way thru the North Carolina Senate.  It provides for a “Provisional” funeral director license whereby  someone who has an undergraduate degree in any field and has at least five years of professional experience under the supervision of a licensed funeral director could become a “provisional” funeral director which would allow them to become a full funeral director by passing certain exams and completing a number of continuing education hours.  You can read about this issue here.

People are on both sides of this issue.  Gary Overcash, President of the North Carolina Funeral Directors Association is quoted in the article, “To allow someone to have a license while they are serving their traineeship goes against everything that we stand for.”  On the other side of the issue, Jon Sanders, director of regulatory studies is quoted, “A provisional funeral director license could expand the profession in North Carolina by opening it to experienced license-seekers who would otherwise be left out.”

Upcoming Supreme Court case – The R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Home has been family owned in the Detroit area for over 100 years.  When the United States Supreme Court reconvenes in the Fall, the Harris Funeral Home will up front and center row in arguing over what type of “dress code” an employer may require. The case will essentially define the meaning of “sex” in federal law.

You see, back in 2007 the company hired a biological male employee as a funeral director.  In 2013 that employee expressed that he wanted to “present” as a woman in his work.  Harris Funeral Home’s policy was a policy that “requires male funeral directors to wear dark suits and female funeral directors to wear dark skirt suits when interacting with families at funerals we host”.    This is the sex-specific dress policy policy that will be tested.

Harris Funeral Home owner Thomas Rost says, “In the past century, my family’s business has survived two world wars, the Great Depression and a decades-long economic downturn in the city our family has called home.  Through it all, we’ve been ready to help.  Can we continue to serve families in the future?  Only time, and the Supreme Court, will tell.”

You can read more on this case here.

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