- A former Walmart employee has sued the company, alleging it violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it failed to stop managers and co-workers from using her deadname — the transgender worker's birth name (Fulwood v. Walmart, Inc., No. 21-cv-00458 (M.D. Ga., Dec. 21, 2021)).
- The employee's tenure began after transitioning to female presentation, and she requested Walmart use her correct name. Management allowed her to use her name on her nametag but insisted it use her birth name on official documents.
- Managers began to use the deadname in conversations with and about the worker and its use led to instances of bullying and discrimination, including cases of intentional misgendering that went ignored, according to the complaint. The worker complained but no action was taken, she alleged. She was later terminated for an unexcused absence that she claimed she obtained permission for.
In June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Title VII's prohibition against sex-based discrimination includes discrimination related to sexual orientation and gender identity. The ruling answered a question that drew clashing answers from agencies and courts, finally drawing a clear line for employers.
While the ruling answered the fundamental question about Title VII, it didn't address more minute questions about compliance. The justices didn't discuss, for example, key issues relating to transgender employees such as dress codes, bathroom access or locker room access.
Pronoun policies are similarly clouded. Shortly after the Supreme Court's decision, employment attorneys forecasted employers would have to wait to see how courts would address lawsuits describing pronoun misuse and other claims unique to transgender workers.
The waiting game is one employers are familiar with — as courts and agencies differed on the Title VII question, many employers decided to fight against LGBTQ discrimination regardless. Employers can do similarly as courts weigh in on the specifics of the Title VII ruling, employment attorneys have said.
Correct name and pronoun use also is an inclusion issue, sources previously told HR Dive, and employers have a lot of leeway to require that employees properly address co-workers.