The topic of preferred pronouns has been top of mind for me lately.

It started with a volunteer mentor day I attended for Step Up (a fabulous group by the way) to mentor high school teens. In our mentor orientation we were guided to introduce ourselves using our preferred pronouns. We went around the room and practiced. My introduction was: Hi, I’m Nancy. An employment attorney who helps businesses with their employee issues. My preferred pronouns are she and her.

Then I heard this story on NPR last night on the way home from work. It was all about how a non-binary individual (genderqueer) was delayed at an airport by a TSA screening device. According to that story, those devices have a pink (for female) or a blue (for male) button that the TSA representative pushes when a person walks through. If your anatomy doesn’t match the button pushed, it beeps, and you are delayed.

Earlier this week a client called with a question about gender neutral restrooms in a southern California manufacturing facility with separate male and female locker rooms.

I also recently watched the New York City sexual harassment training video that does a terrific job of explaining gender identity issues including the definitions of cisgender and transgender, as well as explaining the difference between gender identity and sexuality.

This all got me thinking about how this impacts CA employers and a few issues came to mind including:

  • Discussion of gender identity issues are a required part of harassment prevention training for all employees, as well as managers/supervisors in California.
  • Single-user restrooms under the employer’s control must be designated as gender neutral.
  • Employers with locker rooms will need to make accommodations as needed to address gender identity issues.
  • It is probably time for employment applications to either do away with the male vs. female check box and instead ask for preferred pronoun, or at least add it as an option.
  • It is also probably time for recruiters to ask all applicants their preferred pronoun. Of course, asking only some people based on appearance could be perceived as discriminatory.

Getting used to using preferred pronouns is an issue that most California employers will likely need to address in the short term. Why not be inclusive and ahead of the curve?