The drugstore chain announced the new policy in a Nov. 21 directive to employees, which stated: “All individuals have a right to use restroom facilities that correspond to the individual’s gender identity, regardless of the individual’s sex assigned at birth.” (Read the full company directive here.)
However, the change is just now making headlines following a Los Angeles Times feature on Jessie Meehan, a cisgender woman who claims she was discriminated against at a Walgreens store in Hollywood, California, last year. Meehan said she was “very surprised and shocked” when she was asked to use the men’s restroom while visiting a Walgreens in June, during the city’s Pride celebrations.
“I’ve been discriminated against my whole life based on my appearance, based on looking too male,” Meehan, who does not identify as trans, said in a video released Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which can be viewed above. ”[This is] the first time that I actually said something about it, did something about it. I can imagine thousands of people that don’t do anything about it when they feel bad about themselves.”
After arguing with a store manager, Meehan reached out to the ACLU. A staff attorney, Amanda Goad, followed up with a letter to Walgreens clarifying California law, which “protects every person’s right to access restrooms based on their gender identity in workplaces, schools and business establishments,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Goad said her discussions with Walgreens prompted the company to change its policy at all 8,100 stores nationwide.
“Everyone needs safe restroom access, and California law protects every person’s right to access restrooms based on their gender identity in workplaces, schools, and business establishments,” Goad said in a statement on the ACLU website. “It’s important for businesses to make sure their employees understand that requirement, just like Walgreens is now doing, because Jessie Meehan had the courage to stand up for her rights.”
Walgreens has had a reputation as an LGBTQ-friendly company for some time. The Deerfield, Illinois-based retail chain has a 100-percent rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2018 Corporate Equality Index, a benchmarking tool for LGBTQ workplace equality.
HuffPost reached out to a Walgreens representative for comment, but did not immediately hear back.