The U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) has introduced a policy regarding the use of gender pronouns, inciting criticism for allegedly infringing on employee rights and compelling speech.
Roger Severino, a former HHS civil rights chief and current vice president at the Heritage Foundation, asserts that the policy could lead to dismissals for "misgendering" colleagues, Fox News reported.
Severino, who revealed the policy on the social media platform X, claims it mandates employees to use transgender pronouns, thereby "denying biological realities" or risk termination. He contends this contradicts the First Amendment by forcing federal employees to express state-endorsed ideologies and to renounce personal faith.
The guidance email to HHS staff, advocating for "Gender Identity and Non-Discrimination," directs that all personnel should be recognized by their self-identified names and pronouns. It is said to align with executive orders aimed at preventing gender identity-based discrimination.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management outlines that using correct names and pronouns is crucial for discrimination and harassment-free workplaces. It clarifies that inadvertent misuse of names or pronouns is not harassment, but persistent misgendering may contribute to a hostile work environment, as explained by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
"All applicants and employees should be addressed by the names and pronouns they use to describe themselves. Using correct names and pronouns helps foster workplaces free of discrimination and harassment," the U.S. Office of Personnel Management guidance states.
A linked video featuring Assistant HHS Secretary Rachel Levine highlights the affirmation of individual gender identity. Severino criticizes the policy as Orwellian, suggesting that noncompliance could lead to job loss and negatively impact workplace morale. He mentions legal arguments against such policies and emphasizes the right to political dissent and religious freedom, drawing parallels to historical Supreme Court rulings on compelled speech.
Severino expresses concern over the implications of the policy in workplace facilities, including restrooms and locker rooms, and the discomfort it may cause. He suggests employees face a difficult choice between compromising their beliefs or risking their employment.
"Men who identify as female have the right to get naked in front of female colleagues in the locker room," Severino said.
"It used to be that if you allowed a man to get naked in front of a woman in the workplace that is instantly a violation of civil rights law," Severino added. "That's the quintessential hostile work environment, subjecting women to that. Now, the policy says to the women who may be uncomfortable with that situation, they're the ones who have to leave."