A reader writes:
I am starting a new job next week. Somehow another employee, who is a favorite of the regional manager, objects to my name, so I have been told I cannot use it.
My middle name is King and it is a name that has been in our family for years. I have been called King since the day I was born – 54 years ago – and have never had anyone even mention it, much less object to it.
This entry-level employee says it offends her religious beliefs. She has been at the company for several years but is still at entry-level, so how can she carry so much weight? What are my options? Is this even legal?
That’s ridiculous. It’s your name.
Legally, they can probably insist you use another name (at least I can’t think of a law it would violate), but it would be 100% crazy for them to do that. It’s your name. No reasonable person or employer would ask you to change your name, especially on grounds like these.
I would say this to your new employer: “I certainly don’t want to offend anyone, but this is my name, it’s what I’ve gone by my entire life, it’s how all my professional contacts know me, and it’s what’s on my birth certificate. It’s not possible for me to change it.”
If they push back, I’d continue to say, “It’s really not possible for me to change my name.”
I’m hoping that they just haven’t thought this through and realized how ridiculous this is (and maybe they somehow think it’s more optional because it’s your middle name rather than your first?). Hopefully, politely but firmly saying that it’s not something you can do will make them realize it’s not a reasonable request.
But if they insist on it, well, you’re learning that you’re about to start working for an employer that’s incredibly unreasonable and willing to insist on something outrageous just because someone cried “religion” inappropriately.* It might be better to know that now than before you actually start work.
* And it is inappropriate. Religious accommodations don’t extend to changing other employees’ names. That has nothing to do with what level of seniority someone has, so it doesn’t matter that she’s entry-level; if she requesting a reasonable religious accommodation, they’d need to grant it whether she was the COO or the receptionist. But this one is unreasonable, and it would be just as unreasonable coming from the head of the company as it is coming from this person.