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Transgender Woman Says Employer Forces Her To Use Men’s Room

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CHICAGO (STMW) – A west suburban transgender woman has filed two charges of discrimination with the state against the Aurora arts and crafts store she has worked at for a number of years, stating that management has barred her from using the women’s restroom and threatened her with further disciplinary action if she were to use the women’s room in the future.

Meggan Sommerville of Oswego was born Mark Sommerville, according to the charges filed in April with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR).

Sommerville has worked for Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts supply store, in Aurora “for a number of years,” according to her lawyer, Betty Tsamis. In July of 2010, Sommerville began to transition from male to female, the charges state.

Later that month, Sommerville legally changed her name from Mark Thomas Sommerville to Meggan Renee Sommerville, as well as having her Illinois Driver’s License reflect the name change and its gender marker changed from male to female.

Though she has had her name changed, her state driver’s license states she is female, and Sommerville is female in her appearance, Hobby Lobby management has prohibited Meggan from using the women’s restroom in the store where she works and has been forced to use the men’s restroom, according to Tsamis.

On February 23 this year, Sommerville couldn’t wait for the men’s room to be vacant and used the women’s restroom, the charge stated. She was written up by her manager for using the women’s room.

Sommerville has subsequently modified her workplace intake of fluids to minimize being forced to use the men’s restroom and she waits for her lunch break to walk to a nearby business to use its women’s restroom, a release from her lawyer said.

If forced to use the men’s restroom, Sommerville waits until there are no men using the facility. This arrangement, she claims, is unreasonable and the cause of distress for her.

“Transgender employees in Illinois are protected against discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment,” Tsamis said. “We believe having access to an appropriate restroom facility is a term and condition of employment. Denying someone such access because of their gender identity violates the Illinois Human Rights Act. Since the restrooms are available to the general public, we believe Hobby Lobby’s actions violate the public accommodations protections of the IHRA.

The charges are of employment discrimination and public accommodations discrimination.

The case is pending before the IDHR. The next step in the process, according to the release, is that the charges will be served upon the employer and the employer will have an opportunity to respond.

From there, the parties are free to resolve the matter. If resolution fails, the IDHR will conduct a full investigation and move the charges through its appropriate channels which could result in a hearing before the commission or a civil court action.

“It’s hard enough being a trans person,” Sommerville said in the release. “I just want my employer to treat me fairly and lawfully.”

A representative for Hobby Lobby was not immediately available Saturday afternoon.

© Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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