Employees at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could be fired for not using a person’s preferred pronouns due to a new policy rolled out this month, according to Roger Severino, former director of HHS Office for Civil Rights.
The “Gender Identity Non-Discrimination and Inclusion Policy for Employees and Applicants” was sent out to department staff on Oct. 11, according to emails obtained by Severino, and was explained as a necessary step to create a more “inclusive” space for gender-diverse employees and “provide workplace procedures safeguarding gender expression.” As a result, HHS employees must now use their fellow employees’ preferred pronouns or risk creating an “unlawful hostile work environment.”
“All employees should be addressed by the names and pronouns they use to describe themselves,” the policy reads. “This practice also creates an inclusive work environment where all applicants and employees are treated with dignity. The isolated and inadvertent use of an incorrect name or pronoun will generally not constitute unlawful harassment. However, as [the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] explained, intentional and repeated use of an incorrect name or pronoun (or both) could, in certain circumstances, contribute to an unlawful hostile work environment.”
The policy does not explain the consequences of “intentional and repeated use” of the wrong pronouns, but Severino claimed that this could be grounds for firing, according to a Twitter post.
“It makes no mention of 1st Amendment rights against compelled speech or of free religious exercise, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or religious accommodation,” Severino wrote.
Although I broke the story on HHS’s unlawful transgender employee pronoun mandate last week, it still refuses to disclose the policy to Congress, so here it is. To summarize, HHS requires facilities with showers and changing rooms be open to people of the opposite sex based on… pic.twitter.com/R4FPZhnzVP
— Roger Severino (@RogerSeverino_) October 19, 2023
The department is also instituting new rules regarding the use of restrooms and will now be allowing anyone to use whichever restroom best fits with their identity, according to the policy. If an employee is “uncomfortable” with transgender or nonbinary individuals in a bathroom that is opposite of their biological sex, then the employee must use an “alternative” restroom.
HHS employees can also use sick leave or time off for “gender transition” procedures, either for themselves or for a family member, according to the policy.
“Employees receiving medical treatment as part of a gender transition or any form of gender-affirming healthcare may use sick leave or other leave available under applicable regulations and policies. Similarly, if the employee chooses to request the use of leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) related to their (or a family member’s) transition, the employee must follow the Department’s and Division’s procedures to request FMLA leave.”
HHS did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
Kate Anderson on October 20, 2023