Meggan Somerville
Ill. Trans Woman Alleges Discrimination by Hobby Lobby

By Mitch Kellaway

Originally published on Advocate.com July 08 2014 8:11 PM ET

As many wait anxiously to see whether June's Hobby Lobby ruling will lead to negative fallout for LGBT employees — including fears that the ruling would allow companies to use a religious freedom argument to justify job discrimination or exclude HIV medications from health care coverage — one employee of the craft-store chain says she's regularly experienced antitrans prejudice for the past three years.

Meggan Sommerville, a transgender frame shop manager who has worked at Hobby Lobby's Aurora, Ill., location for 16 years, first filed a complaint against the store in 2011 when, she says, management wrote her up for using the women's restroom. Her complaint alleging discrimination in employment and public accomodations was initially dismissed and then reinstated, and is still pending with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, reports GLAAD.

Sommerville, who began her gender transition in 2009, recently expressed her frustration to Newsweek, saying, "I'm just looking to be treated equally with every other female in the company — not just in the store, but in the company."

She says the Aurora Hobby Lobby acknowledged her as a woman once she legally changed her state ID and birth certificate in 2010, yet management continues to deny her access to a gender-appropriate bathroom. "If they recognize me as female for certain things, why can't they recognize me as female for everything?"she wonders.

The answer, in this case, comes down to a requirement that her attorney, Jacob Meister, calls "absurd" and "unlawful": that she first undergo genital reconstruction. "There's absolutely no support in the law for this," he says of the company's stance that without the costly, extensive procedure, Sommerville cannot use a women's restroom. "But [the company] is being adamant."

Though some may speculate that Christian-owned company's alleged discrimination has religious roots, Hobby Lobby has refused to comment publicly.

Contributor: 
Mitch Kellaway