Hobby Lobby was recently forced to pay $200,000 in hush money to a transgender employee that they had barred from using the women’s bathroom as they had requested.
This crafts supply company had tried to accommodate Meggan Sommerville’s various requests when she transitioned to a female about a decade after she was hired in 1998, but the company drew the line at the choice of bathrooms she wanted.
“Hobby Lobby changed Sommerville’s personnel records and benefits information to reflect her female identity,” Illinois Second District Appellate Court Justice Mary Seminara-Schostok wrote. “However, Hobby Lobby refused to allow Sommerville to use the women’s bathroom at the store.”
Sommerville claimed that Hobby Lobby’s transgender rules caused her tremendous emotional toll that manifested in physical illness and other trauma.
“Hobby Lobby’s bathroom ban gave Sommerville recurrent nightmares about bathrooms, being approached by men, and being physically assaulted and laughed at by them,” the summary of the case read. “She also developed physical symptoms including headaches, fatigue, muscle cramps, gastric problems, and dehydration due to restricting her fluid intake.”
The matter ended up in court, but Hobby Lobby ultimately lost the lawsuit in 2019 but appealed to the appellate court.
However, on Friday the appellate court affirmed the ruling, noting that they thought that the company was violating the Illinois Human Rights Act.
Additionally, the three-justice panel said that this $220,000 was the highest ever that had been issued for emotional 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.”
Sommerville is a Christian and she continues to work at the company.