Transgender employee sues Hobby Lobby over restroom use

Biologically male employee not allowed in women's restroom.

Published 17 July 2014  |  
AP

A transgender Hobby Lobby employee recently filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) citing discrimination in use of the gender-specific employee bathrooms.

Meggan Sommerville is a biological male who identifies as a female, and wants to use the women's restroom at work. Her employer requires that she use the men's restroom until completing sex reassignment surgery.

Sommerville has worked at the Christian-owned arts and crafts chain since 1998, when she identified as a male. She began transitioning in 2009, and said that Hobby Lobby accommodated her new identity. Her name was changed in their records, and her health insurance through the employer helped pay for hormone therapy and other treatments.

When Sommerville tried to use the female's restroom at the Aurora location, however, she was denied.

"I was devastated," Sommerville told the Huffington Post. "I just want to be treated like all the other women. To do anything else diminishes who I am in the eyes of customers and employees."

A 2011 complaint filed with the IDHR was thrown out a year later due to lack of evidence. The ruling has since been overturned, and is currently pending in the department.

Conditions have not changed for Sommerville, who professes to be a Christian.

"Since then they still have denied me use of the women's restroom, even though my state ID [and] even the health benefits of my own company recognize me as female," she told Newsweek.

"I'm just looking to be treated equally with every other female in the company—not just in the store, but in the company. If they recognize me as female for certain things, why can't they recognize me as female for everything?" she asked.

Hobby Lobby has not commented on the case because it is still pending.

The proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act adds sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in employment and hiring practices. Religious organizations are exempt in the current version of the bill. The legislation passed in the Senate, and is pending a House vote.

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