Hobby Lobby loses Illinois transgender discrimination suit

On Friday, Aug. 13, an Illinois appellate court ruled that Hobby Lobby had violated Illinois anti-bias law by denying a transgender woman employee access to the women’s bathroom.

According to Bloomberg Equality, the Illinois Second District Appellate Court upheld a $220,000 judgment for emotional distress and attorneys’ fees against the company. Meggan Sommerville, who is still working at Hobby Lobby, filed a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission in 2013 after she was disciplined for using the women’s bathroom at the store. The commission ruled in 2019 that the company’s bathroom policy was unlawful, the website reported.

The unanimous three-judge panel rejected Hobby Lobby’s argument that a person’s sex is an immutable condition. Nothing in the Illinois Human Rights Act suggests supports the company’s argument, Justice Mary Seminara-Schostok wrote for the panel, which also included Justices Kathryn Zenoff and Ann Jorgensen.

“Sommerville is female, just like the women who are permitted to use the women’s bathroom,” the court said, according to Bloomberg Equality. “The only reason that Sommerville is barred from using the women’s bathroom is that she is a transgender woman, unlike the other women (at least, as far as Hobby Lobby knows.)”

Hobby Lobby’s attorney, Whitman Brisky of Mauck & Baker LLC, didn’t immediately respond to telephone and email requests for comment from Bloomberg Equality.

You can read the ruling here.

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