The owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores have spend a great deal of time, effort and money into presenting themselves as a family-values based company living out their beliefs through their company — all for the benefit of their employees. During the lead up to their Supreme Court case, where they demanded the right to deny full contraceptive and sterilization coverage in their insurance plans on the basis of moral objections, the company cited what they claimed were a number of pro-employee initiatives they put in place, such as their far above minimum wage hourly wages and their Sundays off as a means of creating a more family-friendly environment.
When it comes to actual Christian values, however, the company leaves much to be desired when it comes to treating their employees fairly. Allegations of discrimination are now popping up throughout the chain, and those allegations show a company that isn’t exactly Christlike in their practices.
Meggan Sommerville has been trying for years to get her local Hobby Lobby employer to allow her to use the women‘s restroom at work, a practice that the affiliate has denied because Meggan was assigned a male gender at birth. Meggan has since transitioned and is legally recognized as a woman in all documentation and insurance, but not when she walks through the business‘ doors. Despite transitioning and being recognized by the company‘s paperwork as a woman, she was still punished for using a woman‘s restroom at work.
“Since then they still have denied me use of the women‘s restroom, even though my state ID [and] even the health benefits of my own company recognize me as female,“ Sommerville told Newsweek. “I‘m just looking to be treated equally with every other female in the company—not just in the store, but in the company. If they recognize me as female for certain things, why can‘t they recognize me as female for everything?”
Sommerville‘s suit against the store has been going on for years, but Felicia Allen also says she faced discrimination, although her lawsuit was quickly dropped due to the company‘s arbitration policy it allegedly forces employees to sign. By signing such a policy, employees lose the right to sue the company and instead have to work out allegations behind closed doors.
Allen, according to her report, was hired when she was four months pregnant, and was not able to stay on the job long enough to qualify for Family Medical Leave by the time she gave birth. Instead, the company said it would need to fire her, then hire her back on after she was ready to work again, since there was no form of maternity leave available for her. When she tried to return to work three weeks later, however, she was allegedly refused re-employment, and the company fought her when she tried to obtain unemployment benefits as well.
“How can you be Christian and lie about something to hinder your employee or don‘t want them to come back after they‘ve had their baby?“ Allen told reporter Sofia Resnick. “Or you‘re taking up for your manager knowing that they had done the wrong thing. I feel like that‘s not being Christian at all. That‘s why I don‘t even shop there anymore. I used to shop at that store all the time.”
Are these just isolated incidents, or a sign of something less benevolently Christian? Former employee Charity Carney told the Prospect in 2013 that the Godly store takes a less than Godly approach when it comes to treating their employees well. Carney told Sarah Posner that the closed on Sundays or shorter daily hours were a facade, and employees were forced to work long hours and even on Sunday to ensure the store was stocked and ready. “Carney’s employment at Hobby Lobby came to an abrupt end when she refused, after working a 12-hour day, to stay into the night to help set up Christmas ornaments,” reports Posner. “The manager ‘basically told me if I left I shouldn’t come back,’ Carney says.”
Carney also told Posner the store had sexual harassment issues including “employees photographing women’s backsides with their cell phones and laughing about it,” and a “culture of crude talk” that the management chose to ignore. Hobby Lobby responded by saying no formal complaints were ever filed.
As Hobby Lobby continues to present itself as a values-based, good Christian company being forced to compromise its morals due to the Affordable Care Act, these sorts of stories may begin to chip away at their veneer of righteousness. The administration will come up with another way to offer comprehensive contraception coverage to all who are ensured, even those insured by Hobby Lobby. When the business tries again to place itself on the moral high ground, it will be a good time to remind them that they do not practice what they preach.
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