Illinois Appellate Court Upholds Transgender Discrimination Finding Against Hobby Lobby
By: Jacob Meister & Associates
Sommerville, a Hobby Lobby employee for more than 23 years, was forced to use the men's restroom or wait until her lunch break to use a women's facility at a nearby business after she transitioned on the job. In 2011, Sommerville filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and subsequently with the IHRC which upheld an administrative judge's findings that Hobby Lobby violated the Illinois Human Rights Act and awarded her damages of $220,000. Hobby Lobby appealed the decision of the Commission and refused to comply with the order that she be permitted to us the bathroom at work while its appeal was pending.
Meggan Sommerville, "I really want to thank the court for the power of its decision. Today, we are seeing anti-transgender legislation all over the country but today I am overjoyed that I live in a State that has such absolute protections for its transgender citizens. The language of the Court's decision is so clear that it will have positive ramifications across the US."
Jacob Meister, an attorney for Sommerville says, "Today is a great day in Illinois for transgender rights. With its decision, the Illinois courts have made clear that Illinois law mandates equal treatment for transgender citizens and that those, like Hobby Lobby who discriminate will be held accountable."
Illinois State Representative Sam Yingling, who represents a portion of the 2nd Appellate District said, "Illinois was one of the first states in the nation to afford full employment protections to the transgender community. I'm proud that Illinois leads the nation in protection of transgender rights. Meggan Sommerville has endured over a decade of abuse at work by Hobby Lobby solely because of her gender identity. But today the Illinois courts sent a clear message that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is not tolerated in Illinois."
Oral argument was held before the Second District Appellate Court on July 21, 2021. Whitman H. Brisky argued on behalf of Hobby Lobby; Jacob Meister argued on behalf of Sommerville;
Sommerville was represented in the underlying litigation by Katherine Christy and Jacob Meister. Hobby Lobby was represented by Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP.
Editor's Note: Sommerville and Meister are available to talk to the media. Please call Kitty Kurth at 312-617-7288 to schedule an interview.