Under new guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), employees might find themselves at risk of dismissal if they don’t adhere to the use of a person’s chosen pronouns. Roger Severino, who formerly directed the HHS Office for Civil Rights, shed light on these developments.
The policy titled “Gender Identity Non-Discrimination and Inclusion Policy for Employees and Applicants” was dispatched to HHS staff on Oct. 11. Severino acquired this information from internal emails.
This move is described by the department as a means to bolster a more inclusive atmosphere for gender-diverse employees and to establish clear protocols for gender expression at the workplace. Consequently, not respecting a colleague’s pronoun choice could potentially lead to allegations of fostering an “unlawful hostile work environment.”
The directive states that all employees ought to be addressed by their self-identified names and pronouns, emphasizing the importance of a dignified and inclusive workplace.
While unintentional misnaming or misuse of a pronoun may be overlooked, continuous and deliberate misnaming or pronoun misuse could possibly be seen as a violation.
Although the policy doesn’t lay out the specifics of the repercussions for such deliberate and consistent errors, Severino speculates that dismissal might be on the table, based on his insights shared on Twitter.
Severino voiced concerns about the policy’s silence on the First Amendment, which protects against enforced speech and guarantees freedom of religious expression. He mentioned the absence of references to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or provisions for religious considerations.
Furthermore, the HHS has implemented provisions about restroom usage. The updated stance is that individuals should use restrooms that align with their self-identified gender. If certain staff members feel uneasy about transgender or nonbinary individuals using restrooms that don’t correspond to their biological sex, those staff members are advised to seek an “alternative” restroom.
In addition to this, HHS personnel can now avail sick leave or time off for undergoing “gender transition” procedures. This provision extends not just to employees themselves but also in cases where a family member is transitioning.
As of now, the HHS hasn’t issued any public comments on this matter in response to inquiries from The Daily Caller News Foundation.