09 July 2014

The Hobby Lobby Case You Didn't Hear About

We've been hearing a lot about the Supreme Court decision that allows Hobby Lobby, and other "closely held" businesses, to use their executives' religious beliefs to deny women coverage for birth control, the Affordable Care Act notwithstanding.

In an earlier post, I mentioned some of the other possible effects this could have on employees' health coverage.  For example, what if a company's president cites his religious beliefs in denying coverage for a blood transfusion?  Or what if the company's owner is a Rastafarian, Christian Scientist or a member of any religion that doesn't allow some or all medical treatments?

There is another Hobby Lobby case that only recently has come to light.  This one doesn't involve medical insurance.  But it does involve a transgender employee.

When Meggan Somerville began working as a framer for Hobby Lobby in 1998, she was still living as a man.  Five years ago, she began her transition.  A year later she changed her name, and after that, her birth certificate.  She didn't have any problem keeping her job, and her insurance paid for hormones but her office visits.  But they made her life--at work, anyway--more hazardous in another way:  She wasn't allowed the women's restroom.  In fact, she was written up for doing so.  She then filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.  Her suit against the company is still pending.

The fact that she was taking hormones and living as female was enough reason for the state of Illinois to change Meggan Somerville's name and the gender on her birth certificate.  But, I guess the Hobby Lobby brass defer to a "higher" authority. Let's hope that the IDHR doesn't.

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