An Illinois appellate court ordered Hobby Lobby to pay $220,000 in damages to a transgender employee after forbidding them from using the women’s bathroom, as The Blaze reports.
What are the details?
While the company tried to accommodate Meggan Sommerville's requests when she transitioned a decade after starting to work for them in 1998, the bathroom choice became a bone of contention. Hobby Lobby drew the line there.
“Hobby Lobby changed Sommerville's personnel records and benefits information to reflect her female identity. However, Hobby Lobby refused to allow Sommerville to use the women's bathroom at the store,” Illinois Second District Appellate Court Justice Mary Seminara-Schostok wrote.
Sommerville stated that the harsh decision made her suffer emotionally and the stress eventually led to physical illness, all because of the company’s transgender rules.
“Hobby Lobby's bathroom ban gave Sommerville recurrent nightmares about bathrooms, being approached by men, and being physically assaulted and laughed at by them. She also developed physical symptoms including headaches, fatigue, muscle cramps, gastric problems, and dehydration due to restricting her fluid intake,” it is stated in the summary of the case.
Hobby Lobby lost the suit in 2019 and this was an appeal to that decision. The Illinois court affirmed the earlier decision and ruled that the company had indeed breached the Illinois Human Rights Act.
According to the three-judge panel, $220,000 was the highest award ever given out for distress.
“Three to four times a day, she was forced to choose whether to endure the shame and anxiety of using the men's bathroom, risk discipline for using the women's bathroom or risk neglecting her job duties by leaving her workplace to use the women's bathroom at another business. Her distress drove her to avoid liquid intake, resulting in dehydration. The stress also made her subject to bursts of crying, headaches, and nightmares regularly.”
The woman did not leave her job. She is a Christian and has kept on working for Hobby Lobby throughout the legal battle.