Respect Equality

Illinois Walmart stores hit with discrimination complaint after denying service to transgender customer

The retail giant has faced similar legal battles from former transgender employees.
The Walmart logo is displayed on a store in Springfield, Ill., May 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

Story at a glance

  • Discrimination charges have been filed against Walmart by a customer who said they were denied service because they are transgender.

  • Skyler Hyatt, 36, in a complaint filed with the Illinois Human Rights Department this month, said Walmart employees at two stores last year refused to cash a money order because he has been unable to legally change his name from that he was given at birth.

  • Walmart has faced several legal challenges in recent years from transgender ex-employees who say they were discriminated against and harassed by their coworkers and supervisors because of their gender identity.

An Illinois man has filed a complaint with the state Human Rights Department against Walmart, alleging he was denied service on two separate occasions because he is transgender.

Skyler Hyatt, 36, filed the complaint last week in connection with two separate incidents that occurred last October. According to Hyatt’s complaint, he was prevented from cashing a money order at Walmart stores in Lawrenceville and Olney because the name on his license — the name he was given at birth — is a woman’s name.

While Hyatt has corrected the gender marker on his Illinois driver’s license to male, he has been unable to afford the process of legally changing his name under state law. The license he presented at both Walmart stores had a photograph of Hyatt as he appeared that day, with a short haircut and facial hair, according to the complaint.

A Walmart supervisor allegedly looked at the money order and Hyatt’s state identification and “made a face of disgust,” according to the complaint, and denied service to Hyatt. Two days later, Hyatt was informed by an employee at another Walmart store that they could not cash the money order because it had been “red flagged.”

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The following day, Hyatt and his wife opened a new account at a local bank in Summer, Ill., where they were told by a bank employee that Walmart’s reasoning for denying them service did not make sense.

“What should have been a simple transaction turned into an embarrassing and painful experience,” Hyatt said in an Aug. 17 statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois. “Transgender people like me exist in every corner of Illinois. And many of us depend on services from stores like Walmart to navigate life without outing ourselves at every turn.”

“As a corporation that claims to support LGBTQ rights across the country, my hope is that Walmart can make sure that no other transgender person experiences this discrimination again,” Hyatt said.

In a statement to Changing America, a Walmart spokesperson said the company was taking Hyatt’s complaint “seriously.”

Walmart does not “tolerate discrimination of any kind,” the spokesperson said. “We will respond to the claim as appropriate.” 

Hyatt’s complaint is not the first legal challenge Walmart has faced over allegations of discrimination based on gender identity.

In December, a transgender ex-employee sued the company for failing to act when her coworkers and managers repeatedly used her deadname — the name she was given at birth — in conversations and on official documents.

Walmart in 2018 settled another lawsuit brought against the company by a former employee in North Carolina who said she had been terminated after she complained to her supervisors about harassment she faced from other employees because she is transgender.

In 2017, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a finding in favor of a transgender woman who alleged she was denied health care and employment opportunities while working at Sam’s Club, a subsidiary of Walmart, because of her gender identity.

Hyatt said he decided to take action against the company to protect other transgender people from facing similar discriminatory treatment.

“A lot of young people – young, transgender people – will rely on a place like Walmart to process their first paycheck or a gift from a family member,” he said. “I don’t want them to go through this sort of discrimination.”