Hobby Lobby, the largest privately owned arts-and-crafts retailer in the world, was hit with a $220,000 fine Friday, August 13, 2021 for violating Illinois’ Human Rights Act. The retailer was fined for restricting an East Aurora, Illinois, employee who is transgender from using the women’s restroom.
Meggan Sommerville, who was born male and began transitioning genders in 2007, has been fighting to use the ladies’ restroom for over 10 years at Sommerville’s place of employment, Hobby Lobby. Sommerville has been a Hobby Lobby employee since 1998. Sommerville filed a complaint in 2013 after being disciplined by the company for using the women’s restroom.
Sommerville’s battle came to an end last week when a three-judge Illinois Second District Appellate Court unanimously ruled that Sommerville’s sex is “unquestionably female,” and found the Christian-owned company to be guilty of discriminating against Sommerville’s gender identity.
The amount awarded to Sommerville will go toward attorney fees and emotional distress, according to the Illinois Second District Appellate Court. In statements describing the impact of the retailer’s restrictions, Sommerville cited nightmares about restrooms and said Hobby Lobby’s restrictions resulted in Sommerville taking in less fluid on the job, which led to health issues.
Despite Hobby Lobby installing a unisex restroom to remedy the situation, Sommerville said, “Every time you go to the bathroom, sometimes it’s four or five times a day, I have to use the unisex bathroom.” Sommerville said if someone else is using the single restroom, “I wait, but I don’t want to feel like a creeper and be waiting outside the bathroom. All the bathrooms are at the front of the store. So, I walk back to my shop at the back of the store and wait until I have another opportunity, and then go back up and hopefully somebody is not there.” The court said that the women’s restroom should be available for Sommerville’s use regardless of Hobby Lobby’s unisex restroom.