my company won’t allow any name changes, ever, for anyone

Two letters, one theme:

1. My company won’t let me use the name I go by in our directory

I just started a new job. When I applied, I filled in my legal name and my preferred name. I go by a shortened version of my middle name — let’s say “Beth.” I have never gone by my legal first name, “Jane,” and no one would recognize me by it professionally.

On my first day, I immediately noticed that every system at my office referred to me as Jane Watson. I immediately updated the HR system with my preferred name so that people could, for example, find me in Outlook. However, in the company directory, I’m still listed as Jane Watson. If you scroll over, “Beth Watson” is listed as an alternate name. HR told me there is no way to change a legal name in the company directory.

I find this bizarre. I can see requiring use of my legal name for certain systems (e.g., payroll), but why would it be necessary for a system where the point is to be able to find colleagues? Additionally, while this is a relatively small matter for me — I mostly just find the use of Jane annoying — it could be deeply frustrating for others who go by a name other than their legal one but have not officially changed it.

Since I’m very new, I won’t push back on this rule for the time being, but if I have more capital in the future, is it worth escalating?

2. Company won’t allow any name changes, ever, for anyone

My girlfriend works at a very large, multinational corporation. She’s also a trans woman and is known by Trisha LastName everywhere but her work, for this reason:

HR told her, officially, that she cannot change the email address that she was given when she was hired, which for her is They have this policy for everyone, even people who get married and change their last names.

She asked HR if there was any way to change the email address. They responded that she could do that if she were to voluntarily be put into the system as if she were a new hire — no vacation accrual, no 401k vesting, salary reset, everything. She has been at her position for 5+ years.

They said most people simply change their display name in the system and live with their old name being their email address. However, we live in a very conservative area where she’s worried about facing hostility or violence because of the mismatched email/name. This can’t be legal, can it?

Bizarrely, this is a thing in some companies. It should not be a thing — it’s a ridiculous and in some cases deeply upsetting practice — but it is in fact a thing with some particularly foolish employers.

An electronic system that doesn’t “allow” for name changes or preferred names is a terrible system. As evidenced by all the many, many companies that handle name variations just fine — for people marrying or divorcing, for trans people, for people who change their names for myriad reasons — it’s eminently doable. Decent companies that are saddled with computer systems that make it difficult find workarounds; they don’t simply decree that you’ll need to be listed forevermore as a name you don’t actually use.

Systems are supposed to exist to serve people, not the other way around.

Moreover, since we have laws both federally and at the state/city level regarding gender identity, refusing to allow an employee to change their name during their employment could lead to a discrimination claim. And in at least some places, it’s outright illegal: In California, for example, employers are required to identify employees by their preferred names (with an exception for documents where a legal name is legally mandated).

People working at companies in jurisdictions without that protection should point out to their employers that the practice disproportionately impacts marginalized populations — certainly trans people but also women, who are significantly more likely to change their names upon marriage — and that these systems are designed for cisgender male users and ignore a sizable portion of workers.

{ 433 comments… read them below }

  1. June*

    While I don’t do this anymore, I started out my career implementing HCM (human capital management) systems, so I’m familiar with a wide array of HCM systems.

    I genuinely can’t think of any, except perhaps org-specific bespoke ones, that don’t allow name changes. Even systems I implemented for governments, which were generally a generation behind the private sector, had ways to change names. This reeks to me of an HR department that doesn’t know how to use their system or is taking a long-ago modification as a hard rule.

    1. Lacey*

      Yeah, I can’t imagine a system where you physically CAN’T change the name.

      What I can imagine is a jerk who doesn’t want to mess with it and tells people it’s impossible.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        State of Alabama right now :-\ Pull up a chair and listen to my son’s fun tale of feuding with his school.

        So my kid is FTM transgender. We legally changed his name from Jane to John last year. Alabama doesn’t allow anyone under 19 to get hormone therapy or surgery, so right now it’s just a social transition, but still. He just finished his freshman year of public high school and all was fine.


        I started getting nastygrams from the school district that John doesn’t have his blue card (vaccination record) and he can’t start school in the fall without it! Funny, because he was fully vaccinated LAST year and it’s not like changing your name changes your antibodies, but whatever. I’ll just get a new blue card next time I’m at the pediatrician.

        Except the pediatrician can only issue it to Jane, even though they have him as “John” now in all their records, because the name field is locked by the Alabama Department of Health. I have to call there. It took three different people to understand my question, but the chain boils down to

        – they go by the name that’s on the birth certificate, no exceptions
        – Alabama DOES allow you to change the birth certificate, but trans people have to prove that they’ve received surgery
        – performing gender reassignment surgery on a minor in Alabama is a felony

        It may be possible for me to change his name on his birth certificate without changing the gender, but for right now I’m hoping to show up at the school’s front office and say “really now?” and talk someone into stapling his old blue card to his new student record :-\

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              Yeah, I mean . . . I know that “Just move” isn’t always possible. But bringing up a trans kid in a state that’s passed these laws sounds really difficult. I’d worry about the kid’s safety overall, in addition to nonsense such as this.

        1. Petty_Boop*

          Yegads that made my head hurt. Bureaucracy is the WORST, especially when it’s rooted in patriarchy, tradition, and good ol’ fashioned stupidity.

          1. 123*

            They are doing this intentionally because they know they can’t prohibit trans people so instead they just create byzantine laws and Catch-22’s to prevent trans people from identifying. The cruelty is the point.

        2. Love to WFH*

          I’m so sorry about these horrible state laws. Some recent court decisions give me hope.

        3. Dasein9*

          Thank you for being such a fantastic parent and for sharing this.

          Things are scary right now and the more people who speak up, the better off we all are.

        4. Quill*

          Go in with a stapler ready. And maybe sympathetic faculty, they tend to know what buttons to push.

        5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          I hope that works.

          Never mind Hanlon’s razor, this clearly is deliberate malice.

        6. Dona Florinda*

          I’m so sorry you and your family are going through this.

          And thank your for standing up for your son!

        7. stratospherica*

          I’m so sorry you and your son are having to go through this, but thank you for fighting his corner. I hope even one party in all of this ridiculousness can see sense so that you can pull apart this unreasonable bureaucratic knot.

        8. K*

          Tinkerbell- Sorry you’re going through that. What the school won’t tell you is that there are vaccine exemptions in Alabama. You can get a religious or medical exemption. With a religious exemption, you would submit a written objection and then receive education on the consequences of not immunizing. Which doesn’t matter because you know he is vaccinated. Or you can get a Doctor to fill out a medical exemption. Good Luck.

      2. Worldwalker*

        Yep. That’s my read too.

        I can just imagine how this would work around here (South Carolina). My husband’s former boss, for instance, went by “Mike Smith.” Everyone knew him as “Mike.” But the name “Mike,” “Michael,” or any variant, did not appear on his birth certificate. He was something like “John Smith.” There are a number of people I know who go by names that are not any variant on their legal name (my late aunt having been one of them) just because they like them better.

        With a system like that, if you’d looked up “Mike Smith” on the 10,000+ person company directory you’d only find “John Smith” (probably several; it was almost that common a name) and have to ask around to figure out who to call.

        And what happens when Mary Smith, a traditionalist, marries John Jones, and changes her legal name to Mary Jones? Ten years later, everyone who has ever known her as Mary Smith has left the department, and they only know her as Mary Jones. (even worse if she goes by a nickname, middle name, or whatever — who is going to know that to contact Sue Jones, you have to email Mary Smith?)

    2. margaret*

      My guess is they’re using name or email as the primary key in their data system, which is in and of itself a TERRIBLE data practice.

      1. MarsJenkar*

        Agreed. I was taught that the primary key should be something that’s unique and independent of anything personally identifiable, or that may need to be changed at some point. My usual practice is a sequential autonumber.

        1. Worldwalker*

          That’s exactly what the primary key should be. (though something like employee ID number would probably work, too; they’re usually unique)

          Absolutely *everything* else should be in a separate table. Name. Email address. Job title. Because I can’t think of anything that might not, at some point, have to be changed — even date of birth might be wrong, such as being entered in error.

          This is a company that has either not thought things through, or not normalized their databases, or both. Two companies.

          And no, email isn’t good either. Email addresses change. Even company emails. “SmallCo was just acquired by RealBigCo. At the end of August, everyone’s email addresses will be converted to realbigco email addresses. ” Instead of just updating the email address field they … can’t. Because their database uses email address for its primary key.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        That’s the ONLY reason that the name or email could not be changed, and yes, it’s the sign of a database that was not designed, written by someone who doesn’t know how to write software. And even then, although it would be difficult, a new record could be created with the information of the old (vacation accrual, etc) – any competent geek could still work around such a poorly designed system.

        So, according to Occam’s razor, Lacey gave the more likely reason.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, you can always duplicate a record. Because someone needs the access to put them in in the first place, so they definitely need the access to override the automatically generated “new” status.

          1. Worldwalker*

            Yeah, even if they have to go type SQL commands from the command line, it *can* be done. They just don’t want to.

        2. I Have RBF*

          Yeah, it’s a simple database query to transfer stuff over, but most HRIS systems are so horribly designed that their administrator can’t do that simple task. Add in to that some really stodgy and bigoted ideas on what names are and mean, and you end up with a mess.

          Except for badly designed government systems, your name should be whatever you say it is as long as it’s not for the purpose of defrauding people. Most system designers think a person’s name should be chiseled in stone at birth, and that just isn’t how people work. Even without the whole trans issue, I’ve know a lot of people who either use nicknames because they don’t like their birth name or change their name is non-standard way when they get married.

          1. J*

            This so true. Some of my state’s STILL ACTIVE systems were written 30, 40, 50 years ago and are badly designed and patched to the point HR/users simply cannot change primary info.

            In our retirement system, the User ID was whatever email address you had when hired. Mine was from 1992. All agencies since then have changed email format. Of course, people marry, divorce, or change name for other reasons – and then change email (firstname.lastname@…). Mistake/Obsolete? Too bad. That’s your login.

            To be fair, the IT folks who managed this were horrified and begged year after year for the funds for a new system. Management also fought for it. But the legislature has to approve the budget and this was a huge re-write.

            Finally happened just a couple years ago.

      3. June*

        That makes sense, but god that’s horrible! Not sure if the LW has commented but I wonder if they have employee ID numbers?

        1. LW2 GF*

          Hello I’m Trisha from LW2. and yes, we do have employee numbers. I always wondered why they use email rather than employee number as their reference.

      4. Tinkerbell*

        My son’s school does this. It took almost three months for him to get access to the program they assign homework through (i.e. he was completely unable to turn in any assignments) because he changed his name last summer and the email address linked to his deadname apparently wasn’t associated with the account with his new name. Like, the school uses two programs, one had him as John and one as Jane, and never the twain shall meet. It was a royal headache (and worse because one of his teachers clearly Did Not Approve Of This Gender Nonsense) and took a lot of mama bear on my part to get it solved :-\

        1. anonymous regular*

          My kids name has a diacritic in it – think Chloë or László. Each student had an account with IXL for math. Their teacher set up an account with the correct spelling, which was appreciated, of course.
          Except that the Unicode contained in their username broke the account, and worse: didn’t even give an error that it was broken, some features just didn’t work. It took months to figure out what was wrong and get things corrected.

      5. Coco*

        This is it! If the email is the primary key, there is not a way to edit that. It’s physically impossible. I work HR for an organization of 10k+ people. Years ago someone set up the email to be the primary key. I don’t know who did that, but it’s caused these problems. Everyone hates it. It’s not that I don’t want to change your name… I physically cannot! The good news is my organization is changing to a brand new HCM system by the end of this year. Everyone has worked to make sure this problem will finally be going away!

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          You cannot change the primary key on that record. You absolutely can make a new record, duplicate the relevant info, and use the new primary key going forward.

          No one /wants/ to do that. It’s a pain, documenting things so it doesn’t get undone takes time, requires specialized knowledge, etc. But be clear with yourself and others when talking about the matter – the issue boils down to willingness/desire, far more than anything else.

        2. Observer*

          If the email is the primary key, there is not a way to edit that. It’s physically impossible.

          Not true. For email systems, all you need is an alias. For the HR system it is always possible to clone a record and the provide a new key.

          It’s great that you are getting a new system that works more reasonably. It is NOT great that no one was able to figure this stuff out. Because this is pretty basic.

          1. Formerly in HR*

            +1. In our systems:
            – On the HR side, you get onboarded with your legal name, but can identify a ‘known as’. The ‘Known as’ becomes what would be the First name (so instead of Parinoush the person is Pari) in all downstream systems, including the e-mail set-up.
            – If the known as/ first name change after onboarding, all it takes it a change in the source system and it trickles down. IT might either create a new profile and link the two, or use the existing one but add an alias (so if Pari decides to go by Pi, the email changes from Pari.Lastname to Pi.Lastname).
            The thing that is more fixed is the user ID, which is usually made up by first 1-2 letters from first name and then 4-6 letters from last name. in Pari’s case above, the user ID would probably not need to change, as it might have been pname. but I know for fact that people got new user IDs for reason that were not even legally required, such as mess up with using officially assigned user and messing up systems access and the only way out being a freshly issued user ID which got all dat copied over from the other record.

        3. Nesprin*

          That’s dumb! There’s so many workarounds!

          You could make a separate email address Jane@org and forward to Richard@org
          You could have a preferred name field for every employee (which doesn’t fix dead-naming but at least allows Elizabeth to go by Beth)

          You could pay the money to migrate your database because with the increasing legal protection for gender identity you’ll probably get sued at some point.

      6. Observer*

        My guess is they’re using name or email as the primary key in their data system

        Still doesn’t matter. I don’t think that there is an email system in the world that can’t allow an “alias” which allows an additional email address – and even allows you to use that as the primary in your emails.

        which is in and of itself a TERRIBLE data practice.

        Indeed it is, for all sorts of reasons.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Also, what do they do if they have two employees with the same first, middle and last name? Start adding “#3” to the end of the address?

          My company bases one’s username on one’s initials, and it has gotten pretty abstract:

          -Alice Bethany Cook gets “abc”
          -Anthony Brook Chow gets “acc”
          -Amy Brandy Cooper gets “adc”
          -Arthur Dennis Cook gets “bdc”

          1. Bryce*

            Growing up I had to tell pharmacies “I’m a twin” because they tended to look at last name, birthdate, and insurance provider and assume it was the right file. Once in college I got to play phone tag in the middle of the night because someone halfway across the country filled my brother’s prescription under my name so I couldn’t get a refill.

          2. Nina*

            A previous company used i.surname as the email address (numeric employee ID based on order of start date, though, so the system was set up with that as the reference and everything else could be changed).

            If Imogen Smith started in January, and Isaac Smith started in February, they’d get i.smith and is.smith. If Isabel Smith started in March, she’d get isa.smith. Fortunately in this scenario there wasn’t a further Isaak Smith but if there was he would have been isaa.smith.

          3. LW2 GF*

            “Also, what do they do if they have two employees with the same first, middle and last name? Start adding “#3” to the end of the address?”

            This is almost exactly what they do.

            1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              Ours is a certain number of letters of last name, followed by first initial.

              The problem is that lots of people have certain last names, and first names also tend to cluster by letter. I have one of those common last names, with an uncommon first name with an ambiguous second letter sound-letter pairing. So does someone else with my last name, but with the other likely letter in her different but still unusual first name.

              So, to use names that aren’t mine:
              imagine that first Heidi Jones is hired, and gets JonesH@
              then, Helga Jones is hired, and gets JonesHe@
              and finally, Hilda Jones is hired, and gets JonesHi@

              We all get each other’s email somewhat regularly.

              In a previous job, I got the equivalent of JonesH7@, because I was apparently the 7th person with that first-last pairing to be hired. I did get less misdirected email in that system, but I also just generally got less email because it was a long time ago.

        2. Wendy Darling*

          It’s also a terrible practice because, for instance, I used to work at a place that used email as primary key and so refused to change your email alias after onboarding, and my team hired a new employee named (fake name) Alphonse Ching. They auto-generated email aliases based on an arbitrary mashup of bits of your first and last name, so for instance my email was wedarling@bigco, and my coworker Peter Pan was petep@bigco.

          It was all good until our new employee got assigned the email alias china@bigco and immediately started getting INFINITE SPAM targeted at bigco’s nonexistent China division.

          IT and HR insisted it could not be changed so poor Alphonse just had to deal with buckets and buckets of irrelevant cold emails.

          1. Sharona*

            That’s still a better email than my college managed with first initial + first 7 letters of last name. My freshman year a new student with a long Italian (?) name got automatically assigned: abaldass(at)

            1. short'n'stout*

              I know someone who was assigned an email using that system. His surname was “Eastman” and his given name started with B.

              Could have been worse, I guess. His middle name started with R.

      7. MigraineMonth*

        It’s BAD. Also inefficient; a unique number would be far better.

        My company requires unique usernames (three letters and a digit) that they originally based on initials, and even that stinks. Note for database/permissions design: NOTHING ABOUT NAMES IS UNIQUE OR UNCHANGEABLE. Do not ever use as a primary key.

        1. Worldwalker*

          Nothing about names, email addresses, phone numbers, or anything else in the way of real-world data. Only an abstract number, uniquely assigned, should be a primary key.

          1. I Have RBF*


            Normalization of data and well considered, unique primary keys is table stakes for database design. I’m not a full on DBA and even I know this.

            In most cases, and employee ID number issued when they are being onboarded is the primary key, and all other records are linked to that. Names, email, phone number, address, etc all change fairly regularly. A unique employee ID number does not.

      8. Tiger Snake*

        We think the same way. I read the second letter and went “The foreign key is the email address instead of the user ID, isn’t it?”

      9. stratospherica*

        You got me curious about my own company. Someone I know recently naturalised and took citizenship of the country we live in, and with it took a name in the local language (so she changed her name from, say, Jane Smith to Tanaka Hanako). I checked her details in the employee database and even though we have unique employee ID numbers, her email address is still jane.smith, which is surprising, since everything else has changed!

        Then again, there are some frustrating parts of our company – we get to choose a nickname that is put on our ID badges and what people tend to call us (sometimes, depending on who you are, but that’s another gripe for another day), but it looks like the our EAP for LGBTQ individuals has to strongarm the company into letting someone change it if they’re transitioning…

      10. KatieP*

        That would be a terrible data practice.

        That makes me wonder about my employer – the policy has changed, but when I started, there were two other women with my exact same first, middle, and last name (my middle and last names are very common in the US. My first name isn’t common, but also clearly not rare. Also, obviously, my employer is pretty large). I could not get them to update my name in the the directory for love nor money. This was back in the day when the directory was printed.

        They’ve got me listed as Katie, now. One of my name-sisters retired a few years ago, and I’m not sure what happened to the third one.

    3. umami*

      Exactly. I get wanting to minimize requests, but there really are valid reasons for wanting/needing a name to be changed. Adhering to an outdated rule *just because* is not an appropriate stance in today’s environment.

      1. Worldwalker*

        It never has been in any environment. (people still did, and do, it nonetheless)

    4. Quite anon*

      As the person who sets up network accounts for my organization, we genuinely don’t care what you want your name to display as, as long as you can persuade HR to process the name change in their systems, because from our perspective if your name is Susan Doe but you go by Penny, if we get a request to remove access for Susan Doe and you’re in all the applications as Penny that causes a great deal of confusion with legacy applications that don’t tie to the network account.

      HR claims their system doesn’t handle nicknames well, but even they are willing to process name changes if you can prove your legal name changed.

    5. Observer*

      Even systems I implemented for governments, which were generally a generation behind the private sector, had ways to change names. This reeks to me of an HR department that doesn’t know how to use their system

      Or they are just straight up incompetent.

      1. LW1*

        LW1 here. Thank you to the commenters here – I bet a combo of a database using legal names as identifiers and incompetence is the exact reason I am getting this response. Our company technology as a whole is pretty woeful. Since I wrote the letter I’ve been noticing many people who go by completely different names than what is in the directory. In addition to the directory, we have many software systems that will only use people’s legal names, including the one I use for almost all my daily tasks. My personal favorite is a colleague who goes by, say, “Tish Ogden” but her name in these systems is “Margaret Hill.” We joked we both have secret identities. But for LW2 and many others, it’s not a laughing matter.
        I haven’t pushed the issue so far because there are a few people senior to me who are in the same boat. But my loose plan is to bring it up with one of these people who can then push it with HR/management.

        1. Faith the Twilight Slayer*

          I would go with weaponized malicious incompetence. Start sending IT emails about how you’re receiving communications meant for someone else. or that you’re just seeing someone else’s email entirely. When someone asks for an email, notify HR and tell them strange people are contacting you and you don’t recognize them as employees in the directory and are concerned someone is trying to, IDK, steal company secrets or something. INSIST you’re just looking out for the company, and ask if they’re “really sure that person works here because I can’t see them in the directory, I’m looking at it right now”! Bonus points if you can somehow imply either collaboration with the thief, or a complete lack of understanding how to do their job. But I’m petty like that.

    6. EngineerMom*

      Yeah, this one definitely strikes me as “person who should be handling name changes doesn’t actually know how to do it, and so just tells everyone it’s impossible” OR “person who was originally trained on the system forgot how to do name changes because it’s an infrequent request, and has been telling every other person they’ve trained that it’s just not possible.”

      I go by a shortened version of my first name, and have never had an issue. There’s even a way to make sure that all potential email addresses go to the right person (for example, let’s say a FTM person also got married and changed their last name – you can set it up so that anything addressed to,, all went to the same email account in the end.)

      A system that has existed at least since 2010 should easily be able to accommodate this kind of thing!

    7. Beth*

      I remember my first mortgage, which my parents co-signed. This was in the 1990s.

      They died. The property and the mortgage were now in my name only.

      I asked the mortgage company to remove my parents’ names from the MAILING ADDRESS, since it was extremely painful to get the statements and other mailings in the names of my dead parents. We had already updated the information on the property deed, the taxes, the mortgage itself, etc.

      They would only change the mailing label IF I PAID FOR IT TO BE DONE.

      I did not pay to change the mailing label.

      I did tell everyone I knew to avoid that mortgage company.

    8. ZugTheMegasaurus*

      I ran into a doozy of “our system can’t do that” recently. My mom retired a couple months ago after 40 years in medical billing, during which she was set up as the Medicaid admin for the practice. She kept getting calls from patients who insisted that they had just been directed to her. So she calls the Medicaid office and explains the situation and is told, “Admin designation is permanent. It is impossible to assign somebody else to be the admin.”

      She was flabbergasted and was just like, “I retired and moved out of the country. I am no longer affiliated with the practice and am not authorized to deal with these patients. These Medicaid patients can’t follow up on their care because there’s no one to call. Are you seriously saying that that’s the system you have set up?”

      Apparently, yep, that’s their system.

      1. Betty*

        My company uses a very well-known and established application with that requirement. Our former IT manager – let’s call him Bob – is the admin for the application because he set it up. Now we’d like to change that because he doesn’t work at the company any more. Nope, can’t change it to someone else, and because he’s the admin, his name can’t be deleted from the system. Fortunately, we can add the admin role for other people, but we still can’t remove Bob. Ridiculous!

        1. Middle of HR*

          I still get FSA compliance notices from a job I left several years ago. I asked them to remove me as I no longer work there and am not authorized to get them.
          They said because I’m an admin in the system, a current admin has to fill out a paper form requesting my removal.
          Paper. Form.

    9. Calpurrnia*

      You mentioned that even government systems can handle name changes and I just had to laugh a little bit, because… in my experience, it really depends on *what* government.

      My husband and I combined our surnames when we got married. The US government had zero problem with this; Social Security, the IRS, and USCIS all just needed to see the official documents and made the update. Banks and everyone else official came around with the right paperwork.

      BUT! Husband is a US permanent resident with dual non-US citizenships (South African and Dutch, if anyone’s curious).
      And both of the other two countries COMPLETELY REFUSE to change his name on his passports to reflect his married one. The consulates say it’s “just impossible” and “there’s simply no way to do such a thing”. So he’s stuck with TWO passports in the wrong name, which causes all sorts of consternation when we travel internationally and the names on his passport and plane tickets don’t match :(

      1. Orangia*

        For the Dutch passport, there is one field for the last name you were born with, and another for the last name of the person you are married to. (There isn’t a field for the last name you use in daily life.) Have you tried asking what they can do about the latter?

        1. Calpurrnia*

          They said they could probably add the “spouse name” field, but not until his current passport expires, for some reason. When we asked for more info, the guy at the consulate completely ghosted us, because pandemic. And of course, all the online information (as well as the paperwork) is in Dutch, which neither of us speak, just to add another wrinkle.

          Airport security reeeeeally doesn’t like this concept though. When purchasing international tickets you can put in your passport info before going to the airport to make your check-in easier, and his gets rejected by their system every time. Adding his actual surname in a separate field won’t fix that, unfortunately. Similarly, the “scan your passport” things at airports often reject him and then he has to have his marriage certificate on hand and explain to the gate agents. We almost missed a flight connection because of this last year.

          Domestic flights are no problem because he just uses his green card, which has the correct name. So we’re really looking forward to getting him US citizenship and acquiring a correct passport.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        What do you mean by “combined” surnames? If you did the thing where the lastnames before were Smith and Jones and you now go by Smones, that is indeed not legally possible in a lot of countries. It’s not a matter of logistics, but of law.

        It gets messy fast when multiple nationalities are involved. I have a nephew with non-matching passports – not even because of a marriage or other name change (he’s two!), the naming rules of the two countries just did not mesh from birth.

        1. Calpurrnia*

          It’s legal in California, which is where the marriage took place, so it’s reflected on the marriage certificate. ( If other countries recognize international marriages it’s ridiculous to only recognize a part of it.

          However, it’s not actually the *combined* surname that they object to! South Africa is quite sexist, and legally only allows women to change their surnames at marriage, while men must obtain a court order for any name changes – which must be done in person, and as we live in the US and can only travel there for a few weeks at a time, that’s not feasible. And hilariously, in the name of “gender equality”, the Netherlands basically abolished name changing at marriage, and doesn’t acknowledge any name changes ever. So your Dutch passport is always, 100%, completely, without exception in your birth name. I can’t imagine being trans, or from an abusive birth family, (or any of the myriad other reasons people choose to change their names beyond the marriage tradition,) and being forced to keep your deadname on your passport in the name of “gender equality”. It’s *really* screwed up, honestly.

          In a ridiculous twist on the usual narrative, America is vastly more progressive than both. The feds basically just go “Got legal papers? Cool, all good.” with no further questions. USA! USA! ;)

          1. Calpurrnia*

            Honestly, if anyone reading this happens to know any good international family lawyers who practice in South Africa, we’d love to be connected to them. We’re pretty sure the sexist name change law should actually be declared unconstitutional there, but have no way to challenge it ourselves.

            The South African attitude appears to be some variation on “that’s just how it is here, it’s too much trouble to go about fixing anything”. Which is a very common attitude about a whole lot of other problems in the country, unfortunately. As an idealistic American who grew up immersed in the whole narrative of civic duty and protesting and one’s individual power to create change, that “whatever” attitude is very hard to wrap my head around… but obviously it hits different in South Africa with all the terrible history and resulting baggage that I can’t fully understand as an outsider.

    10. Wenike*

      As someone on the IT side of dealing with name changes, we absolutely change people’s display names (preferred name doesn’t appear automatically but we can change it quickly once pointed out to us) and update email addresses for name changes. That is even mostly automatic. It is much much harder for us to change someone’s username, but that’s mostly because we went through a process a few years ago of basically tying everything in the company to the username and there’s not an easy way to change that short of just creating a new account and having that person move everything over themselves. Depending on the email system in use, aliasing is a thing whereby a user can technically have multiple email addresses with one as their primary. I know of someone at my company who has a somewhat abnormal spelling for their last name and so have an alias of the “normal” spelling because people struggle with the proper spelling and that lets him still get those emails.

  2. LTR FTW*

    The person facing “no vacation accrual, no 401k vesting, salary reset” for a name change is blowing my mind. That seems… intentionally hostile? I’d be really reconsidering working in that environment.

    1. nm*

      As an American with no legal expertise, I wonder about the legality of this in, for example, states that require unused vacation days to be payed out?

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I’m not a lawyer, but I’d like to know if that’s even legal? Your retirement is tied to your SSN so you can go by Bonzo the Clown all you want, but your retirement is tied to your SSN account.

      I could be wrong?

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        You’re not wrong. These things are usually held in accounts outside of the company, and those accounts are under the person’s legal name. And while your legal name can change (another aspect to these systems that is blowing my mind), you are correct that these accounts use your SSN. So if your legal name, your display name, your entire ethereal form change – that account still exists and has existed for the length of your employment.

      2. Irradiated Condor*

        In the US, your government Social Security benefits are tied to your SSN and your income history, so yes the salary reset may hurt there. But reducing a future salary is legal in general.

        A 401(k) is not run by the government (but it is subsidized by the government), and it is still yours after you leave the company.

        However, the 401(k) *vesting* schedule and other things like the company match (how much and when) are set by the company and changing them isn’t illegal.

        1. Shirley You're Joking*

          Just a small note of clarification, if you don’t mind… A 401(k) is not subsidized by the government unless you consider the tax-free status of contributions a subsidy.

          The vesting schedule and plan design are indeed set by the company but the rules of the plan are formalized in a plan document and must be applied equally to all employees. There are strict laws governing these plans. You could change the vesting schedule for the plan by amending your plan document, but you can’t say that you’re going to apply a different vesting schedule for some employees.

          And I don’t imagine there’s an option to draft a plan document so that people who are trans and who change their email addresses will be submit to a different vesting schedule. :)

      3. T*

        Ex: My SSN is tied to my married name now so shouldn’t that be the name in all the systems at work?

    3. Veryanon*

      Right? This can’t be legal. I’ve never heard of such a thing in all my years working in HR.

      1. High Score!*

        It’s legal. I’ve worked for companies with this policy. Even if they screw up your name at first, you are stuck with it until the day you quit.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Just because it’s common doesn’t necessarily mean it stands up to legal scrutiny

          1. Littorally*

            Yup. Lots of issues in a workplace have a way of transmuting from “I don’t know a way to fix that” to “I can’t fix that” to “we as a company can’t fix that” to “we’re not allowed to fix that” and no oversight along the way to actually double-check any of it.

        2. umami*

          That seems … improbable? If they spell your name wrong, it would be legal for them to not correct it in their system? It seems simple enough to prove that your name is Thus And So, and needs to be listed that way in all official employment documents, including email. A practice/policy isn’t the same as a law.

          1. Tinkerbell*

            Just a guess, but it may be different if they spell it wrong-as-in-not-the-legal-way versus “wrong” as in not-the-way-you-wanted.

          2. MultipleAccountMess*

            My last name is traditionally a first name…let’s say my name is Mary Jane (it’s not). I had two contracts at a major, prestigious university (think of vines) several years apart.

            I was surprised when I started the second contract I had to go through the full onboarding, create new stuff process. When I asked someone with HR record access I was told they couldn’t find my previous accounts. It took me two days to figure out that they had reversed my names so I was processed as Jane Mary the second time around (it took not being able to log into the computer systems using my name-derived user name then a lot of slow back and forth with IT that was not sped up by working for IT) to figure it out.

            Then they weren’t able to entirely fix it because my original HR account did, in fact, exist in a hibernating state and they could not merge the two accounts because of various system deadlines for allowing changes had passed, that the systems with the agency I was hired through were tied to the new account so it couldn’t be deactivated without firing me then going through a whole new set of stuff that needed to be redone because they had to be dated after the “new” offer date and they wouldn’t have been able to fix payroll to pay me for time already worked, and a bunch of other reasons that amounted to the system wasn’t designed to have two users with exactly the same name, dob, etc at the same time and they couldn’t legally or practically deactivate either original acct.

            A clever IT person figured out a partial IT override but it was a mess and I’ve been warned it will be a major hassle/problem if I ever work there again.

        3. Ro*

          I am neither American nor a lawyer. But I feel like a case could be made especially in the case of the transwoman. They are forcing her to choose between being deadnamed constantly and outed because any new coworker will have to be told “oh you need to email Richard if you want Trisha because she’s trans” or giving up PTO and accrued vacation. Maybe Trisha doesn’t want everyone in a work context to know (though some will inevitably know if she transitioned while working that job). That’s before you account for the danger aspect of being outed.

        4. Joron Twiner*

          How do they run payroll?? Surely the bank account is under their legal name, which doesn’t match the name in their system so… what do they do??

      2. ferrina*

        IANAL, but it seems like it’s on the wrong side of legality. There’s a very high chance this disproportionately impacts women (who are more likely to change their name upon marriage), so wouldn’t that violate gender discrimination on compensation?

        1. Some words*

          Alongside newlyweds, newcomers to the U.S. often change their names to something more Americanized. It’s incredibly common.

      3. The Person from the Resume*

        I’m pretty sure this nonsense is totally legal unfortunately. How much vacation you accrue and your salary are not governed by law. Not as sure about 401K, but probably also not governed by law in this regard.

        It sounds like that they can not / would not update the name in their system. Their HR system removes the person as if they left the company and then enters them as an entirely new person under the new name. And also that they cannot edit the starting salary for the position at all (which seems very questionable to me). <- This is absolutely ridiculous and it's unlikley any commerical system can't handle these kinds of updates.

        1. Parenthesis Guy*

          401k is most definitely governed by law. You can set the vesting schedule to a certain number of years for all your employees, but you can’t just change the rules for just one person. And, even if you consider someone changing their name a break of employment internally, that doesn’t work for something like a 401k unless there’s an actual break of employment.

          1. Shirley You're Joking*

            I was coming here to say exactly this. 401(k) plans have plan documents and are governed by laws set by the Department of Labor. A name change CANNOT interfere with your vesting. If the company fails to comply with their plan documents, they will have the Department of Labor to answer to.

            So… let’s say the employer sets someone up as a new hire with a new name. The SSN is the same. The 401(k) administrative system (the vendor they use to house the plan) is going to see the same SSN for an existing account, most likely, consider it a mistake. A good 401(k) vendor would contact the employer, ask what the heck they are trying to do by setting a second account for the same person and would explain to them that they can’t do that.

            This employer is likely out of compliance with their plan in many ways if they are willing to play this fast and loose with their plan’s governing documents.

            1. Middle of HR*

              yeah the benefits stuff in that HR response is insane. Depending on the state, they may not even be allowed to just yoink accrued vacation either for a name change. They’re insane.

              1. Momma Bear*

                This part really got me. They can’t figure out how to change someone’s name without ruining their benefits? That has to be illegal.

        2. AnonInCanada*

          The only semi-reasonable explanation as to why they can’t edit someone’s salary upon initialization is if the back-end that handles employee payroll was written in some obscure language like COBOL in the 1960s, and those who still know how to program in it are either dead, or well past retirement age. Which still doesn’t exclude them from getting with the times and creating a new database server back-end that’s written in something a bit more modern. But wait, that costs money, and those CEOs don’t want to give up part of their multi-million dollar bonuses to deal with such a trivial issue like this, right? Just make the employees suffer and move on.

        3. Veryanon*

          In some states (California comes to mind immediately) earned time off is considered compensation as soon as it’s earned, whether you’ve used it or not, which means that you would at the very least (1) need to give notice before changing it and (2) you’d have to pay it out if you terminated someone and then re-entered them into your HRIS system. It seems incredibly stupid that this company wouldn’t just figure out how to change someone’s name in their system rather than jumping through all these hoops. I can’t imagine it’s that difficult.

        4. Quill*

          Seems like it would violate some part of the employment agreement though. Which would make it, if not a legal matter, a matter for lawyers.

    4. June*

      I also just think it’s BS. Even if they started LW over as a new hire, I can’t think of any systemic reason they can’t ‘re-hire’ them at their same salary/vacation days/401k.

      1. Lavender*

        I was thinking this. Does every single new hire start off with the same salary and vacation time regardless of seniority? Somehow I feel like that can’t be the case.

        1. nona*

          I thought the same, this seems like it’s being deliberately difficult. I’m sure they make new hires who negotiate a higher initial leave accrual, etc, so they must be able to edit it. Unless the company has a good DEI office who can talk sense into HR, it might be time to hit the job market (which sucks, as this just shouldn’t be an issue).

        2. doreen*

          I’m not saying that this company is correct in trying to do this or that it’s not possible for them to “re-hire” the person at their original salary and vacation time – but it’s not actually unheard of for all new hires in the same title to start with the same salary and vacation time.

      2. Nusuth*

        Agreed. I was recently hired at a new firm in a situation where my entire team was brought over from a competitor. They grandfathered us all in at the tenure we had at the former place. I’m not the person putting the numbers in the database, but it seems like complete nonsense that they couldn’t just reenter OP with their correct benefits.

        1. Momma Bear*

          I had a similar situation years ago, but it was a little different. The new company maxed out at 4 weeks and the old company at 6. People who had gotten 6 previously were capped in the new system at 4 after the merger. However, that still meant they could adjust everyone’s PTO according to time in service because certainly no newbie got 4 weeks as well.

          I think that employee should job hunt, for a lot of reasons.

    5. Silver Robin*

      I am mind boggled and 100% in agreement that such a response would have me searching for a new job immediately. That is *at best* absurd levels of cluelessness and at worst deeply hostile. That thing comes to mind about not attributing to malice what could be attributed to ignorance, as well as its corollary: sufficient levels of ignorance/incompetence are indistinguishable from malice.

    6. Lavender*

      I had the same thought. I suppose it’s possible that there’s no way to change an employee’s email address without creating a new employee profile – but if that’s the case, surely they could manually update the salary, vacation, etc. to reflect her current position? I can’t imagine that a new manager or director hired from outside the company would have to start off at the same base salary as everyone else, so there’s gotta be a way to change it.

      Seems like a thinly-veiled excuse for discrimination, IMO.

    7. I should really pick a name*

      That sounds like “we CAN fix it, but we don’t want to so we’ll penalize you to make it undesireable”

      1. Lavender*

        Or perhaps more like, “Hey, you voluntarily gave up your higher salary and accrued PTO, so now you can’t complain about it.” (Which is obviously not how that should work, but it seems to be a strategy that some companies use anyway.)

        1. LW2 GF*

          To be fair, the HR person did not offer to put me in as a new hire. They just said that that would be the only way to change my email address, and that they didn’t want to do that.

          1. Lavender*

            I’m glad that they weren’t pressuring you to do that, at least! But it does seem weird that there isn’t a way around this. Seems like an issue that would be pretty straightforward to fix, even if they’d technically have to “re-hire” you.

    8. Snow Globe*

      Changing a person’s benefits is likely not legal, if benefits are outlined in an employee handbook. Courts have held that handbooks or policies outlining benefits are legally enforceable. You can’t withhold benefits because of a computer issue.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Additionally, in the US the company can get in trouble if the policy disproportionately affects a protected class. Given that sex is a protected class, this is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

        “We aren’t discriminating, we just make every woman who takes her husband’s name and wants to use that legal name at work take a lower salary” sounds pretty damning to me.

        1. LW2 GF*

          To make it worse, this company has also had women who had left abusive relationships and changed back to their maiden name so as to avoid looking at their abusers surname name all the time. The company still did not change their email address.

          1. I Have RBF*

            Your HR IT is incompetent or abusive. I used to administer a university’s LDAP directory, and HR/peoplesoft could do this at any time, but often they didn’t want to unless someone made a stink.

    9. Cherries Jubilee*

      My first thought is that company is just BSing her. I don’t know that someone who wanted to change their name for non-transition reasons would be told to give up their PTO accrual!

    10. Harper the Other One*

      Given the type of name change we’re talking about here, which appears to involve transition, I feel like that hostility is VERY intentionally hostile.

    11. FrogEngineer*

      Sounds to me like an HR person who has no idea how to change the email address except to create a new person. Maybe she should try talking to IT instead?

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Okay, but there is no reason why creating a new person in the system should mean losing all PTO, salary, etc. If some lateral hire was coming in from outside the company and being compensated for their previous years of experience, I doubt HR would say their computer system only allows the person to start at the most entry-level salary for said position. I hope this person sues the hell out of this company.

      2. LW2 GF*

        I have spoken with IT. This is a commonly spoken about issue. All of this is controlled by our home office in another state.

  3. SK*

    I worked at a school where one of the vice principals had a misspelled email address. I told him that IT could create a new, correct email for him and then anything that came into the incorrect email address could be forwarded to him. He went to them. It worked.

    Good luck.

    1. Cat Tree*

      This was my thought. It’s 2023. Even in the clunkiest system, it should be possible and relatively easy to set up a new email account and have automatic forwarding from the old one.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, my first thought is that I would talk to IT. My guess is that they would have a better sense than HR about what the system is actually capable of. And a second email that everything was forwarded too was my thought for a possible workaround too if for some reason their system really has to keep the original email associated with them.

    3. Ann Cognito*

      We just had an employee want to go by a different last name. To change in the payroll system, we told her we could only do it with an updated social security card showing her new name, but for anything else, she was free to go by whatever she wanted. We had her reach out to IT to create a new email account, using her preferred name. Done.

    4. Bee Keely*

      The issue is that depending on how their IT is handled they may be paying per email address & that would cost them 2 email addresses instead of 1.

      It’s ridiculous.

      1. Observer*

        Not really. The way most of these systems work you can have email addresses that don’t have a license. Which would mean that, for instance, the person could not access their email on that account. But if everything is being forwarded out, who cares?

        Also, you generally don’t need a new *mailbox* just an additional address on the mailbox itself, which does not cost extra even in systems that charge per mailbox/ person.

        1. Your Computer Guy*

          It’s called an alias. It’s essentially a sub email address of the one used by the actual mailbox (as in the “thing” that sends/receives email). You can have up to 400 aliases per account in Office 365. Using an alias means that emails sent to the old or wrong address gets properly routed to the recipient and then they reply from the newer or proper address. It is an extremely easy, well-documented thing for IT staff to setup and do. Folks being told they can’t change should go straight to IT or push back if IT acts like it’s hard.

          1. Observer*

            There are actually two possibilities.

            One is an alias – which I’ve also mentioned more than one. I totally agree that 9 times out of 10 that’s the easiest way to deal with stuff. It literally takes minutes to do. Depending on the circumstance it might make sense to document what you’ve done and why, but you’re still talking about minutes.

            But also, if there is a reason to actually start a new mailbox, you can also have a mailbox that doesn’t need a license, but which just forwards everything that comes in. It’s a TOUCH more complex, but again, it takes all of 10 minutes to set up on a bad day.

            In *neither* case is anyone paying for two addresses, though.

            And, in either case “Folks being told they can’t change should go straight to IT or push back if IT acts like it’s hard.

            THIS. This is 100% the case.

    5. umami*

      Honestly, I did this at a job back in the early aughts – I have a difficult first name to spell, and their convention was to set up email with I told the IT folks I was missing a lot of external emails because people would misspell my name, and they set up an alias for me so I could use that as my formal email address. If it could be done back then, it can certainly be done now if people would bother!

  4. Peanut Hamper*

    Systems are supposed to exist to serve people, not the other way around.

    Can I get this on a t-shirt?

    Also on a bumper sticker, a hat, and cards to hand out to people? Because none of this should be an issue.

    In the system as a new hire, my ass. They can. They just don’t know how or don’t want to.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      They can. They just don’t know how or don’t want to.

      Yea. Usually, it’s 1) more work than it should be, 2) requires access/approval/cooperation of someone it shouldn’t (either higher on the food chain or a developer), and/or 3) garden-variety incompetence (it doesn’t jump off the screen and too lazy to read and/or don’t have access to the manual).

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Heck, I’d like to send a case of these to the IT department who lamented that they were spending all this money on great systems and software but never bothered to actually talk to the people whose work they were supporting to (a) as if/how this would be helpful to them or (b) show them how to use the tools to actually do their work. (And then complained a lot about the users being technologically inept and not using the new systems.)

  5. Captain Raymond Holt*

    I adjuncted an intro class at a small liberal arts college that billed itself as progressive. I taught there for four years and two years in changed my first and middle name via court order and began going by my middle name (I changed my first to a shortened version of my birth first name).

    My email was first initial, last name. They told me they could change it but only forward my email for two weeks. They used outlook.

    I explained how the policy disproportionately affects women and gender nonconforming individuals. Shocked Pikachu. So I kept it.

    I also encountered a non-binary student’s previous name on some Outlook stuff and gave them a heads up. Woof. Shouldn’t be this hard.

    1. Angstrom*

      Well, setting up an autoforward rule in Outlook might take a minute. A whole minute! Can’t be wasting time like that. ;-)

    2. physics lab tech*

      yup, i’ve worked at two universities now and one was fine, no issue with eliminating my dead name, the second was terrible. It took over six months and involved my boss and a dean and crying on the phone to HR

    3. L*

      I have a whole document I put together about the four different places you need to update “display name” settings within my university’s enrollment, ID cards, and Google-based email and calendar systems. I have sent this document to a student or two more or less every semester since I made it. It’s a mess.

  6. ferrina*

    why why why whyyyyyyyy is this a thing?!
    It should be easy to have your preferred name be the primary name. For ALL the reasons! What is wrong with these companies?!?

    At most company this is a non-issue- we have one person who doesn’t use their legal first or legal last name for anything, and everyone knows them by their professional (preferred) name. That’s the name that’s used on every system and list. The only system their legal name is listed is for taxes and other legal things.

    1. Risha*

      That’s the same thing I’m wondering. I said in a comment below that my boss would not allow me to change to my preferred name. I never had this issue before and I couldn’t understand why she didn’t want me to change it. Some people have very valid reasons for not wanting to go by their legal name (like me). Even if you don’t have a “valid” reason, just wanting to use a preferred name should be reason enough. You shouldn’t have to justify why you want to be called a certain name. People should call others the name they desire to be called.

      1. I Have RBF*


        It’s not only an issue for trans people, so why is there so much insistence that some document filled out when you were born should mandate your name for all of time? People change their name they want to be called often changes several times before they are 18, plus marriages, divorces, religious conversions, etc all take place. In the US the fixed identity is usually tied to your social security number, but you can change the name on that. My spouse has done it twice.

  7. Dust Bunny*

    What the actual F to both of these.

    There are five people in my department and none uses our workplace standard Firstname.Lastname@Workplace.Edu email–two use shortened versions of their first names; two don’t like having such a long email address and use [first initial]lastname; and I have an unusual first name that clients kept misspelling (so the emails bounced) and also use [first initial]lastname. One of us changed her last name and email when she got married.

    Nobody gave any of us any guff about changing them–they just went “OK” and that was that.

    1. Littorally*

      For real.

      I work for a Big McLargeHuge company, and email address/display name changes in our system are incredibly easy and user-friendly. When I changed my name for transition purposes, it was 100% something I could handle all by myself for email purposes. Just go into the relevant system, update my display name, give it the email address update I wanted, let the system check for conflicts, confirm that emails to the old name should be routed forward, and boom. Done. Any discussion groups or mailing lists I was in got automatically updated, my directory profile was updated, my access in various systems was updated, and the longest any of it took (other than me picking a name in the first place, lol!) was an overnight batch cycle to populate the changes across a myriad of different company programs I have access to.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        HR had to approve ours (which they did, readily. In fact, they suggested it for me after someone on the BoD commented they were having a hard time reaching our department) and IT had to actually do it, but there weren’t any actual roadblocks.

        They do forward from the old email for (not sure how long, but a long time).

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Yep, we have two name change processes – one for legal names that goes through HR and addresses all the places where the legal name has to be updated, and one for display names that goes through IT and is optional at any point. The two are not connected at all, and depending on your circumstances, you can do one or both as appropriate.

      2. Cobal*

        Ironically, large organizations are usually much better about this. They’ve faced every situation, and have much more to lose with a lawsuit.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          We’re a nonprofit with about 40 employees. But we’re also run by actual humans with feelings.

    2. Myrin*

      I recently learned that the reason my workplace has different patterns for email addresses – let’s say my name is “Myrin Thinks”, my email could be “thinks[at]workplace” (the most common one), “thinksm[at]workplace”, or “myrin.thinks[at]workplace” (the one I actually have) – is solely that each of our three IT guys has a different preference and depending on who creates your profile, you’ll get either of those variants. I had a good chuckle about that.

      1. Rara Avis*

        My workplace used firstnamelastinitial. Which is stupid, because you can have a lot of “JohnM”‘s in one workplace. So when people guess at your email address instead of looking it up, the first JohnM hired gets all the wrong email. The later hires were JohnMa or JohnMe or later JohnM2. (I was NOT the first RaraA, and the first one did not have a desk job, so I had cranky clients claiming I wasn’t responding to email.) So later they did an overwrite of firstname.lastname, which was better. But then we also got google accounts, which used the old format of name and initial(s). HR has on multiple occasions gotten it wrong when setting me up in various programs, by using RaraA (not me) instead of RaraAv.

        But … if anyone asks to change due to a name change for any reason, IT does not make a big deal of it. It happens.

    3. Seahorse*

      As it should be. I work for a ponderous bureaucracy where everything is slow, often outdated, and it takes a ridiculous number of layers to achieve anything. My name is something like Elizabeth Katherine Jones, and I go by Katie. They set me up under my legal name on everything when I first started. I told them I want everything to say Katie for purposes of not confusing people, and IT / HR got it done. If they can do it, anyone can.

  8. learnedthehardway*

    This is ridiculous. People have been changing their last names – ie. married people taking their spouse’s name – for a VERY long time. Well before systems were a “thing”.

    It’s inconceivable that a system would not accommodate for this. I would talk to IT rather than HR – they’re the ones who can really figure this out.

    1. Alex*

      Agree with this. Either HR is overtly hostile towards people who want to change names (possible!) or they simply do not *know* how to do it, and therefore they assume that if they don’t know how to do it, it can’t be done. I know people like this–if they don’t see a clearly labeled button saying “Off” they assume something can’t be turned off.

      Talk to IT. They may have a better handle on the system (I suspect they support HR in showing them how to use their own systems all the time) and see if they can help you.

    2. Happy meal with extra happy*

      Well, most of the married people changing their name were women, and women had much less of a presence in the decision-making positions in the workplace when these systems did become a thing.

      This is completely horrible, but there is a reason for that blind spot. (The reason is sexism, and it sucks, but still a reason.)

      1. Observer*

        I hear that. But it still doesn’t make sense. In those kinds of places a woman NOT changing her name would be a “problem”. So the people designing those systems would definitely want to allow those changes. Not necessarily to make life easier for their employees. But for *themselves*.

        1. Quill*

          They’ve also had over 50 years at this point to get used to married women in the workplace. Also, women (married or not) in professional roles greatly predates email as a common / expected business tool. Even the most techbro workplace is probably purchasing their entire email setup from *somewhere* these days, and not designing the stuff themselves.

          So the only scenario I can see for not at least saying “actually I think that’s an IT question” other than hostility or incompetence is “HR can’t do it themselves because IT is contracted out, and they don’t want to put in an IT ticket to see if it can be done.”

      2. MassMatt*

        It’s still odd, given that women changing their name was (and for many, still is) the “tradition”. A coworker of mine at a large international company changed her name due to marriage and it took her MONTHS to get it changed. Not sure if it was an issue with multiple databases, incompetence, or what.

        Add in a helping of anti-trans hostility and you have the makings of an even more terrible ordeal.

        1. Anne Wentworth*

          It’s not that odd if you consider that a lot of these systems were probably designed by straight men who think that considering other people’s lives and needs falls under “diversity” and is therefore “extra work.” If the software project also didn’t budget for actual user testing, then they wouldn’t discover the problem until companies started using it.

    3. 2 Cents*

      I got married in 2010 and changed my last name. Some companies I dealt with (the bank, the airlines, the credit card company) were flabbergasted I’d be changing my name — as if this had never happened ever. In 2010.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        When I got married, I chose to keep my old middle name instead of replacing it with my maiden name. The State of Alabama didn’t get the memo, refused to acknowledge that such a memo could exist, and essentially told me to go away. Luckily (as far as I can tell) middle names aren’t a legal thing anyway – I can sign as First Middle Last or as First Maiden Last or First TotallyMadeUpName Last and they’re all equally valid on legal paperwork, as long as I swear that they’re all me.

        1. Laika*

          Is replacing your middle name with maiden name a very common practise? It’s the first I’ve ever heard of it, but I like it!

          1. Quill*

            I think it varies culturally. My mom used to professionally go by First Maiden Last, and puts it as her display name on facebook, but she didn’t replace her middle name so much as never use it in the first place. And she signs stuff as First Middle Initial Last, or just First Last.

          2. Tinkerbell*

            Common enough that they did it for me even though I didn’t want them to :-P It’s what my mother and most of the other (older than me) women in my family have done, though, so I guess they assumed of COURSE I would. In my case, my middle name was my great-grandmother’s last name, I passed it on to my own kid, and I want to honor her. Also I’ve gone as First Middle online for a long time and I don’t want to change :-)

          3. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

            Extremely common, IME, at least in the US. Most female professors I’ve had (and my mom, who’s also a professor) were something like “Anne Elliot Wentworth.” Not hyphenated, so they’d still be “Professor Wentworth,” but any publications attached to them as “Anne Elliot,” from before they married, would still be tied to them.

      2. Veryanon*

        Try getting divorced and changing your name back to your family of origin’s name. That’s a whole other circle of the Inferno. :(

      3. christy7h*

        YES. I’m going through this now. I was married briefly before, so had to change my name from maiden, to 1stMarriageLastname, back to maiden in 2003-2005. Such a pain, but thankfully I was super young and honestly didn’t have a ton of stuff to change.
        Fastforward to 2023, remarried, and decided to change my name to 2ndMarriageLastname, and figured surely this process has gotten better with the internet and all. NO. So much worse cause of a million accounts. If men regularly changed their name, this would have become some sort of consolidated process for EVERYWHERE already.

        I work for the government (for an agency that issues birth certificates actually), and my work was the easiest place to change it by far. The new legal name is in all the HR systems and anything legal. But I’m using both last names, for business and networking reasons (I’m established in my career, didn’t want to lose my very unique maiden name for super common new last name). My government job was 100% great about it, and did it in a day.
        This is crazy. Agree, I’d suggest reaching out to IT. This sounds like HR making something harder than it needs to be.

    4. Buttercup*

      At an old job, my team was pulled in to help the security department distribute new ID badges with some updated tech in them to the entire company of multiple thousands of employees. We also helped print new badges at a “re-orientation” employees were forced to sit through. There was a trans woman who had transitioned while on the job, and she came through while I was directing people on which line to stand in and my coworker was printing badges. It turns out that the ID badge system security used at the time (and, I believe, still uses to this day) does not allow for any name changes whatsoever. Married people were listed under maiden names, and unfortunately, this poor trans woman was listed under her deadname. My coworker didn’t recognize her and couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t showing up in the search, and rather than force her to out herself to anyone nearby who might not know, I went over and whispered to my coworker the name she’d be found under so no one else could hear. At least there was a workaround to print the new badge with her actual name and not her deadname, but it was such a terrible system. Unfortunately for everyone, the security department refused to let IT do basically anything to it, so even talking to IT wouldn’t have helped. IT was happy to update your employee email address for any reason whatsoever, but they couldn’t get security to let them update the badge system. Such nonsense.

    5. allathian*

      Yeah, this.

      I work for the government in Finland, and our machine nicks are first name initial + last name. Sometimes more than one letter of the first name is included, or a middle initial, to distinguish between namesakes. There’s no way to change the machine nick, but thankfully there were no problems with email etc. when I changed my name when I got married. One of my coworkers uses his middle name, and that’s also used in his email address.

      That said, I almost never see my machine nick these days, because we log in with a smart card and PIN, rather than the machine nick + password that had to be changed every month.

      But the inability to change your nick can be traumatic. I know someone who started working for the government when she was married and changed her name when she got divorced. At the time we still used the machine nick login, so she was faced with her former name every time she logged in at work. She tried to get it changed, but when that wasn’t possible she quit. She was a work friend and told me. She can never work for the government again, because even if she goes to another agency or branch, the old nick would still haunt her…

  9. Janeric*

    Until very recently many state agencies in California had this same issue — the problem is currently being resolved but it’s a laborious process.

    (Maybe it’s entirely resolved and I just hear about it frequently from people with poor supervisors/HR reps.)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        LOL, after I got laid off from OldExjob, I took a proctored assessment for a state government job in Missouri, at one of the local colleges. One of the questions on the test was about saving documents and it actually talked about saving them on a floppy disk. I had to assume that since the test wasn’t updated, the systems probably weren’t either. #XP4evah

    1. Over It*

      I also work in government also and we seem to have the same issue. You can use a nickname instead of your legal first name on your email address, but once you’re assigned an email address IT won’t change it for any reason, even if your name LEGALLY changes. This hasn’t impacted me personally, but it feels like something should really be a non-issue. And yet here we are…

      1. doreen*

        People at my government job had the opposite issue – they would get married, change their name, send the certificate to HR and find out that their email address and logins were automatically changed to the new name. I could never understand why they were surprised by that – it’s exactly what I expect from a government agency. ( They weren’t adding the spouse to their health insurance or anything like that so there was no reason to send the certificate except to change their name.)

  10. BackendSystemsCanBeDumb*

    I understand how the backend systems could end up in a situation where its very hard to untangle email as the unique identifier, but it seems like there should still be some solutions. Any medium to large company will have ways to set up DL’s or emails for external use (think something like “” or “”). This means there are ways for emails to exist that aren’t tied to an individuals name. A hack-y way around this could be to have them create a 2nd email with preferred name while keeping the email with the original name, and then you can just forward anything from original name email to the preferred name email.

    When I have had to do things like this in the past, I’ve found its easiest to broach it with someone in IT that is a bit more creative and that I have a good relationship with, to get them to confirm that it’s possible or to help me come up with ways to do it. Then I get my management to bring the solution(s) to senior leadership in IT to ask them to set it up.

    Its dumb that companies do this, and I imagine fairly hurtful to constantly be dead-named with email. Sorry people are still dealing with this in 2023.

    1. Ama*

      I work with a third-party cloud software product for my work that does tie unique user IDs to email addresses — it isn’t ideal but that’s how it was set up. However, any user can change their own email at any time and if a user accidentally creates a second account with a new email instead of changing it (it isn’t uncommon for the user group for that software to move jobs and take their account with them), the support staff can merge the two accounts on the back end. So there are ways, even if it’s a system that makes a user email the unique identifier, to allow people to change their email.

    2. Moodbling*

      i have been a Microsoft system admin for emails and accomplished this in under a minute, counting “unlock the computer.”

  11. Snarkus Aurelius*

    These policies seem like a huge overreaction and overcorrection to avoid dealing with the trans community because I’ve never seen anything this widespread affecting women who change their names after marriage.

    It’s like I tell my mom. “You’ve handling new name changes your whole life whenever a woman gets married and changes her last name. Was anyone confused when you changed your last name in 1970? No? Okay then! You can do it!”

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I will say – many places are also VERY bad at that.

      And they shouldn’t be and it’s ridiculous and possibly illegal in some situations but I have been married for five years and the amount of things I am still not on correctly or had to close/re-open completely is high. This included my employer at the time.

      1. Snow Globe*

        I’ve been married 29 years and my electric bill is still in my maiden name, because they require a certified copy of my marriage license, and who has the time for this?

    2. Lily Rowan*

      We have one very internal HR system that apparently uses people’s legal names only, so whenever I’ve had to use it, I have to remember that Jane Smith’s married last name is Jones (she doesn’t use it at work), and Sally Brown’s legal first name is Sarah.

      But everyone’s emails reflect they name they go by!!

    3. the bean moves on*

      lol, I cant get my aunts to address things to me by my unmarried name, and I never changed it!

      1. Kelly*

        Off-topic to the original subject, but I appreciate your use of “unmarried name” if your intent is a gender-neutral synonym for “maiden name”. I dislike the routine usage of “birth name” by women who think that the term “maiden name” is sexist because it can conflate marriage-related name changes (where there are generally no privacy issues) with other kinds of name changes (such as documents* where the intent is to be exclusive of marriage-related name changes but inclusive of name changes done for other reasons like gender changes, adoptions, etc.).

        *An example would be children’s birth certificates in most states (use unmarried names since married names can change again due to divorce or remarriage and except in coincidental cases provides distinct and more identifying information between the parents; but do take into account names changed for reasons that are less likely to be changed multiple times in one’s life, and in some cases, have privacy issues with the former name).

        1. Tommy Girl*

          Maiden names on birth certificates are wonderful for genealogy, too :-) I did a bunch of genealogy over the pandemic, and my personal standard for recording women in my trees was all maiden names. Kept it simpler. It was funny to think about my grandmothers with different names, but they had them for over a quarter of their lives. I’m thinking of changing my last name to my mother’s maiden name (which is also my middle name). I just like the sound of it better, and I always was looking forward to a mid-life name change, but alas, never got married. Can I still call my original name my maiden name? I was a maiden for part of it :-)

      2. Relentlessly Socratic*

        My father mailed me something with my “married name” exactly once and I called him and read him the riot act. I never changed my name when I married (am long since divorced). 1. I publish professionally under my birth name. 2. I really didn’t care for spouse’s name AND we both had the same first name, so I didn’t see the need to have two Relentlessly SpouseNames running around the place.

        1. Dahlia*

          Yeah, that only works if you’re Taylor Lautner and Taylor Lautner’s husband, Taylor Lautner.

    4. DataSci*

      This is where I land too. They’re trying to be hostile to trans people and are fine with cishet women being impacted as well.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Just as an FYI — I got regular letters about this (from women who wanted to change their names after marriage/divorce) long before there was so much trans visibility. I don’t think it’s a response to the trans community in general (although it could be in individual instances); it’s been a long-running issues at some companies.

      1. Over It*

        This seems to be the case where I work. The one trans person I worked with socially transitioned before starting at our agency, and IT gave her an email address reflecting her chosen name (although HR managed to deadname her in our internal staff directory…) I have also seen many women get married or divorced after starting and IT refuses to change their emails. For people who go by middle or nicknames, it’s really dependent on what your manager requested for you before you started, because once they assign you an email that’s it forever. I’m not going to say there’s no transphobia in workplaces—see above deadnaming incident—but this particular issue seems to be rooted mostly in incompetence or laziness as opposed to malice.

        1. Observer*

          but this particular issue seems to be rooted mostly in incompetence or laziness as opposed to malice.


      2. Quill*

        We don’t disbelieve you on that (I remember a few of these letters) but given the current attempts by several US states to legislate trans people out of existence, I think most of us are still wondering if this is an old problem in this workplace resurrected specifically to spite trans people. Or if the abruptness of the refusal instead of explaining / offering a different route is due to the writer being trans.

    6. Observer*

      These policies seem like a huge overreaction and overcorrection to avoid dealing with the trans community because I’ve never seen anything this widespread affecting women who change their names after marriage.

      I don’t know. I mean the the second LW mentions that the company won’t change names even for women who get married and “legitimately” change their names because they “can’t”. And the First OP’s company also won’t allow a change – even though there is no whiff of “trans” issues here.

      On the other hand, we’ve seen more than one letter here over the years about idiot companies refusing to change names in situations where gender issues were clearly not at play. (Marriage, people who changed their names legally in general, people who are trying to keep stalkers off their backs, etc.)

      Not that it really matters WHY they are doing this. It’s ridiculous and should not be happening. End of story.

    7. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I’ve seen this sort of thing happen for people who change their name on marriage as well. My most memorable one was at a company that had a “legacy” system (that was still in use) which was managed separately from Active Directory, email, etc. In that system the name itself was the primary key, so a “name change” could only be done by creating a new record. For most people that was fine as they were generally basic users of the system.

      However the system also had functionality to have “approval” levels (for example Jane is allowed to authorise refunds of up to £1000 but Sally can only self-authorise up to £200, or £1000 with a second approval by a senior). These approval levels were set by having achieved certain goals like being at Level 2 for at least 3 months, passing a test about “refund criteria” with a supervisor, etc. Creating a new record reset all of this, so that someone with a high level of seniority suddenly couldn’t authorise refunds any more and had to work through all the goals again (including the passing of time).

      Of course, this could technically have been overridden by a database administrator but that wasn’t allowed for “audit reasons”.

    8. doreen*

      Their are loads of employers that are just weird about names , and it has nothing to do with gender at all – I worked for a large government agency and they were pretty strict about names- emails , log ins and all records had to be based on your legal name. There were a couple of people I knew who had emails using their first initial and middle name but those were still based on their legal name If you got married and you gave them the certificate that said you changed your name, everything switched to the new name whether the employee was male or female. Got a legal name or sex designation change – they changed their records to match. But everything had to be based on legal names – Doreen Susan Jones could have an email address of DSusanJones , but not DSueJones even if she went by Sue.

    9. Random Academic Cog*

      I pushed back hard on IT and got my email address changed after I reverted from my ex-husband’s last name, but 15 years later I still have to log in – multiple times every single work day – with his last name. It was a bit traumatizing for a while, but eventually I quit thinking about it constantly.

      1. allathian*

        I’m glad you’ve learned to deal with it.

        Something similar happened to a work friend when she divorced her abusive husband. She quit over it, and told me that she’d say so in her exit interview. It wasn’t the only reason she quit, but I guess it was the final straw that convinced her to start looking elsewhere.

        1. Mill Miker*

          I can see the logic of “Everyone wants, but there’s 14 Johns in the company, so none of them can have it. Lucky Suzanne though, she’s the only one, and gets the preferred address.”

          Which sounds good if you’re being thoughtless about all the implications, but just ends up being salt in the sexist wound.

    1. darsynia*

      This is so wild it reminds me of the person who wasn’t allowed to use their actual birthday because the system had black-out dates like Christmas and New Years’ where you couldn’t ever choose those dates for *anything*. Except I think this meant their legal documents didn’t match, and they were upset at the person whose birthday was Christmas??

      This one, though… I have a super common first name. I could imagine them telling me I couldn’t work there because they already had a [my name]!

    2. Observer*

      Oh wow! They are really telling on themselves, aren’t they.

      I could just imagine any EEOC investigator dealing with a claim against this company cackling with glee on hearing this. Because if you think that you can have unique names using ONLY first name for women, then that says that you have no intention of hiring women.

  12. Littorally*

    For #2, my first full-time employer had this policy as well. I changed my name legally, not for transition purposes (at that point…) but for family reasons, and they were absolutely inflexible about my email address or company ID (which was a combo of first/last name letters, super secure guys….) having to stay exactly as they had been.

    If your company is shitty enough that the impact to marginalized folks — and to women, who are much MUCH more likely to change names throughout their life than men are! — doesn’t make an impact with them, another angle you can take is that it creates confusion and potentially mistrust for anyone who needs to email external contacts. I had clients who were extremely distrustful about receiving an email with a severely mismatched display name/email address name from a professional company — it tripped a red flag for them that “Jane Smith []” was emailing them about financial issues. Companies that don’t care much about their people can still be induced to care about their image.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      The issue you bring up was highlighted in our mandated IT training modules – “don’t trust unexpected emails! Don’t trust emails where the user name and the email don’t match the person to whom you’ve discussed something!”.

      I still don’t understand how in the year of our pasta lord 2023 this is still a thing, personally.

    2. Observer*

      I had clients who were extremely distrustful about receiving an email with a severely mismatched display name/email address name from a professional company — it tripped a red flag for them that “Jane Smith []” was emailing them about financial issues. Companies that don’t care much about their people can still be induced to care about their image.

      Exactly. As noted, this shows up in just about every cyber security training out there.

  13. Em*

    The number of AAM letters where my brain goes “there was a Better Off Ted episode about this!” (in that one, it was fixing an error rather than changing from an otherwise legitimate name, but yikes.)

    1. Ally McBeal*

      It blows my mind that Better Off Ted only got 26 episodes. Kinda like how Office Space has continued to serve as shorthand for workplace issues despite being more than 20 years old. Small show, outsized influence.

      1. physics lab tech*

        it was a really funny show that tbh had a lot more wacky things to say— i wish they would reboot it

    2. Judge Judy and Executioner*

      I so miss this show, and am eagle screeching in appreciation of your comment and reference.

    3. Peridot*

      Watching Better Off Ted was hilarious until my company implemented a stupid rewards system for employees that was way too close to the plot of that episode.

  14. Insert pun here*

    If my very large, VERY bureaucratic employer can do this — and they can, in about 15 minutes, for everything except payroll and legal documents — I feel very certain that everyone else can, too. (Payroll/legal requires the official paperwork/documentation/whatever to implement.) They just don’t want to.

    1. BellyButton*

      You are so right. It isn’t a big deal AT ALL in any system I have ever worked with. I can right now go into our HRIS system and change anyone’s name on how it is accessed in the system and in the directory. For the email address all I do is call up IT, they create a new email address and route any emails directed at the previous email address to the new one. It takes minutes for both.

  15. Valancy Trinit*

    Company #2 is, I am sure, perfectly capable of fixing the email issue entirely and is acting in bad faith. If we were to take Company #2 at their word, however, this issue could be mostly circumvented by using a first initial rather than a full first name in email addresses. I often email, for instance, a Jane Smith whose email address is KJones[@domain], and while that’s a bit confusing, it doesn’t give me any information about which gender the full version of the ‘K’ name is commonly associated with. It’s none of my business why someone with the legal name K[…] goes by ‘Jane’, and I’m going to call her Jane as that’s her obvious preference.

  16. BellyButton*

    For the trans person: I would go directly to IT and the HRIS manager. They know how to do it and can do it. If they won’t, I would escalate it. It is a horrible horrible practice and one that is easily changed. People change their names all the time for a variety of reasons and people have the right to use their legal and preferred names.

    1. Judge Judy and Executioner*

      If there is a Pride/LGBTQIA+ group at the company, they might also be able to assist.

    2. Tinkerbell*

      Unfortunately, in some places the escalation procedure is “are you gonna sue us, then?” because everyone in the chain of command would rather trans people just go away :-\

      1. Quill*

        Though, it might be more useful to know that that’s their strategy (and plan to escape with the quickness) than not do anything.

  17. Stuart Foote*

    I had a male co-worker who had a falling out with this family and wanted to change his last name, but when he changed his email address he didn’t let anyone know, so there were suddenly lots of emails apparently from a complete stranger in everyone’s inboxes. It was confusing…for like a morning and then everyone figured it out.

  18. linus*

    i feel like explicitly bringing up the example of marriage (“so what happens when people get married and change their last names? do their W-2s just come under a name the government doesn’t recognize?”) and talking to an employment lawyer would clear this up so so quick

    1. Name (Required)*

      That didn’t work for me. I got married (to an opposite-sex partner, even) and changed my surname. IT didn’t care at all and wouldn’t allow me to change my email address, just the display name. So now my email address (which was my prior name) and my display name (the current name) were not in accord, and I got endless questions about why from various people who I had to give my email address to. It happened constantly and drove me nuts.

  19. bean*

    I’m in the same situation as #1! I’ve gone by my middle name for my entire life, but my work email is first.last and can’t be changed. There’s also someone else here whose first name is a slightly different spelling of my middle name so if you’re trying to email me, who you know as, say, Sarah Smith, it’s very easy to type in S-A-R and email sara.jones instead of me at jane.smith. I know for certain Sara Jones has gotten emails meant for me, but to date she has never forwarded along a single one, so that’s fun.

    AND I’m a lesbian but I’m considering taking my girlfriend’s name when we get married, so at that point you would know Sarah Robinson but you’d have to email jane.smith (a completely different first and last name!!!) to actually contact me. I do most of my important messaging through a job.title email address, so it’s mostly just funny and a reminder of how stodgy my workplace is (we have a computer system we use every day that’s older than me, and I’m almost 30) but it really should be easy to change these things!

    1. LW1*

      LW 1 here…it is amazing how many middle-name-goers there are out there and yet companies go: ?!?!. I applied with my preferred name on my resume, etc, indicated it on my application, and I still start on day 1 with everything saying the wrong name and then a big shrug from HR.
      Also, not cool by Sara Jones! At my old megacompany there was an “Elizabeth Watson” who lots of people would e-mail thinking she was me, Beth. She forwarded every single one, which I appreciate to this day.
      Good luck if you do change your last name!

    2. Random Bystander*

      That sounds a lot like the way things were with my work email until they changed the protocol and then suddenly it was no problem to fix emails so that they were set up with the names people actually used. For example, let’s say there was a Mary Elizabeth Smith (when hired) who subsequently married and became Mary Elizabeth Jones. This individual actually would be known by the people who actually knew her as Beth Jones. But when you are working cross departments and told that you need to contact Beth Jones, you can’t find it in the directory until the person tells you “oh, her email is Mary_Smith2@company”. Then they changed it, so now she is Beth.Jones@company. Same way the Mary Catherines suddenly morphed into the Cathy, Kate, and Cookie that everyone actually knew them by.

      So long way around of saying, LW1, if you do gain the capital, it is worth pushing back on this because it’s very frustrating to have to try to think of what name you’re supposed to use to contact someone when it doesn’t match what the person actually goes by.

  20. Madame X*

    I think there’s something very suspicious about companies that claim that they can’t change someone’s name in their internal systems for any reason. Changing an email should not affect an employee’s 401(k), PTO accrual, and salary reset.
    Name changes are such a common occurrence. It is just very odd that a company would be set up to not allowed this.
    It sounds like the real difficulty is the leadership within those companies is refusing to allow name changes rather than it being some sort of system limitation. Even If there is a system limitation, then that system needs to be updated in order for these companies to be brought into the 21st-century.

    1. Observer*

      It sounds like the real difficulty is the leadership within those companies is refusing to allow name changes rather than it being some sort of system limitation.

      Absolutely this!

  21. Something Similar Happened To Me....*

    Letter #2.

    I don’t claim an IT expert, but an explanation I’ve often heard is that it is tedious and/or very time consuming to create another profile and link you new profile with your existing profile and whatever documents, etc. (Please do not ask me anything more technical than that, I don’t have any more information.) Note I didn’t say impossible.

    Thus, it is not unusual for IT people just not to want to create another profile, so they just say they can’t. Depending on the management of the organization, they may get away with that as reason for not changing a profile or name.

    1. A Non E. Mouse*

      I don’t claim an IT expert, but an explanation I’ve often heard is that it is tedious and/or very time consuming to create another profile and link you new profile with your existing profile and whatever documents, etc.

      I gotta be honest, I’ve been in IT for decades now, and seen many systems.

      None, not one, not even those that are now so old they are brought up as jokes as conventions, are hard to do this in.

      There can be implications – primary keys get a little weird with third-party systems sometimes – but all are manageable with time and the tiniest amount of give a damn.

      Decades, many systems, different companies – always doable, just sometimes a little interesting.

  22. UKDancer*

    This is ridiculous. I have a few staff with different names, some use an alternative first name from their legal first name (so Rupert goes by his middle name Mike, Rowena goes by Roe) and some use an alternative last name. HR has a record of people by legal name but the email system reflects peoples’ preferred names. People change their names for marriage, divorce and other reasons. You can pretty easily update your email address and signature, by just requesting it from them. It’s apparently not that hard.

  23. Tute83*

    Being an IT person, I look at things from an IT perspective. And I have to wonder if companies reluctance to change people’s names in the system is because they don’t know how or it’s too much like work. HR people, as a rule, are not known for their technical abilities or comfort.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, there are two possibilities here:

      – the system uses names as a unique identifier, and this is hardcoded into the system and that’s why they cannot be changed. If it is this, it’s *wild* because a) names change! and b) names are not unique! no new system created in about the last 20 years does this because it’s so obviously a terrible idea!

      – the system does not use names as a unique identifier and it is in fact perfectly possible to change names and/or emails, but HR does not understand how their own system works.

      Letter writers, I would consider talking to HR AND IT and seeing which it is, if you want to spend time on this. It is ridiculous, but if it’s the second one you might find that someone in IT is sympathetic (or even just embarrassed that anyone thinks they’re running such a badly designed / outdated system) and willing to go to battle with HR for you.

      1. No Tribble At All*

        We literally have two people with the same first and last name at this company (150 people). Spelled the same way. They’re not related.

        1. DataSci*

          At my first job after grad school we had two people with the same first name, last name, and middle initial. They had to add “Marketing” and “Business Intelligence” to their names to disambiguate.

        2. bamcheeks*

          At least ten years ago, one of my colleagues ran some training on “why we always search by staff number [unique identifier], not name/DOB/job title .” She managed to find a Sara Khan born on 03/07/1981 who was an adult nurse, and a Sara Khan born on 03/07/1983 who was a children’s nurse.

        3. Quill*

          I live in Salt Lake City right now. If any large company had to have unique names generated on legal names, the number of Bob, John, Mike, and Scott Smiths that had ever had emails there would take out the internet for the whole city.

        4. Just Another Zebra*

          When my daughter was an infant, her daycare had a strict Proper First Name, Proper Last Name policy, so everything was labeled Baby Zebra, even though we called her Barbie Zebra. Coincidentally, there was another little girl whose name was also Baby Zebra, but her parents called her Bobsy Zebra. After too many incidents of swapped diapers / spare clothes / bottles (the bottles were the final straw), I went in with Bobsy’s mom, met with the director, and basically demanded their items be labeled as Barbie and Bobsy, to avoid any further confusion.

        5. Nightengale*

          We had an e-mail crisis when a nurse in our giant health system married and changed her last name to the same as my office manager and was suddenly given the same firstname.lastname e-mail address my office manager already had. At one point, I was e-mailing the other person’s manager to communicate about hte issue because neither involved person’s e-mail was usefully reaching them. You would think a giant health system would have a plan for 2 people having the same first and last names and checking that an e-mail address was in use before giving it to someone else, but apparently not.

  24. blupuck*

    This is just silly. It is not hard to change info in an email system.
    We were bringing in a new employee and IT had him ready in the system, even though the company didn’t even have all the required info yet.
    Poor guy came in to a cube and an email address all set up for FNU.
    A welcome email went out for FNU and people stopped by to great him.
    “Hey FNU”!
    He took it well.
    His info was changed in the system before end of day.
    He kept his FNU nameplate on his cube.

    FNU=First Name Unknown

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      This is the bit of humor that this very dreadful post needs!

      I would keep that nameplate too!

    2. Tinkerbell*

      My kid had a teacher officially named “Placehoder_13” for a full semester before they got her a real email and access to the software they use for homework. This means for a solid several months, all emails came from Placeholder_13@[school district].edu and all comments and homework assignments had to be posted by a colleague on her behalf.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      Oh, don’t even get me started on the FNU’s, LNU’s, etc. at my job. So many complaints about how the system can’t deal with one and one name only. We started putting a period in as a substitute and people complain about that one too. Dude, we can’t just put you and only you in as “Teller” (I shudder at trying to do a search on that one) on everything when 99.5 percent of people have a minimum of two names and we have to do name searches.

    4. Esmae*

      It took so long for IT to update a former coworker’s phone that people started addressing her as “Vacant.”

  25. mcm*

    My company does this! I’m in a similar situation to Beth in that I go by part of my middle name usually and I’ve been told repeatedly that they really can’t change it. It does drive me nuts that they ask for preferred name on all their onboarding documents but disregard it. Stinks of implementing things that they hear make them more accepting/progressive without actually considering the impact at all.
    The good news is, they were able to find a way around this “hard and fast” rule for a trans colleague who they recognized would be disproportionately harmed by going by their deadname, so I do appreciate that they can differentiate. I can live with the mild annoyance of people I don’t work with closely calling me the wrong but non-offensive version of my name, but no one should be told that there’s no way around being constantly deadnamed at work.

    1. opinionated on names*

      I’m split on this (am trans and have deadname, for context). It’s good that they recognize how harmful going by one’s deadname is, but essentially judging a trans person’s name as worth more than a cis person’s name is… not it. For me, going through the experience of having a preferred name has given me even more appreciation for cis folks who have preferred names. A name is a name is a name, in my opinion. Ideally, when the trans colleague joined it would have resulted in the rule being changed for everyone, not the status quo with a single exception (though better an exception than none for sure). I know that personally, being an exception like that would make me very uncomfortable — glad to not be dealing with my deadname, but upset knowing others weren’t being shown the same respect.

  26. Judge Judy and Executioner*

    Even an old HR system developed in the 90s I’ve worked with can handle legal name/preferred name. I’ve worked in IT, and have yet to hear of an HR system that did not allow for a name to be changed. There is no requirement in the US for the legal name to have to match the name on name tags, badges, and email. Anyone who says different is either ignorant, lazy, or just being a pompous jerk.

    Is it a pain sometimes when people change their names for the systems? Yes. Are these almost always worth the hassle? Also yes. Companies need to do better.

  27. Diet Coke Mom*

    My daughter had a huge ordeal to change her name at work after she got married. Worse though, was her coworker that was having all kinds of issues getting their dead name changed.

  28. Eric*

    I work in IT and I can *almost* guarantee that this is on the company and NOT any electronic system. Most companies are Windows shops and will use Active Directory + an Exchange admin console which absolutely allows you to change your email and display name. My company has you do a name change request but it’s easy enough to do. Obviosuly I can’t speak for all companies but I can’t imagine a system that doesn’t let you do that easily.

    1. Judge Judy and Executioner*

      Right? Any HRIS I’ve used allows for you to change all of the name fields.

    2. Night Cheese*

      Same. Change the email address, make the old email address an alias on the account so they still get emails sent to it. Easy peasy.

  29. UKgreen*

    It always amazes me how far some companies will go to hide behind ‘computer says no’ when in reality they a) can’t be bothered to do something that’s vaguely hard or b) deliberately don’t want to do something because they want to discriminate.

    I have worked at companies that ‘blame the system’ for not allowing married people to have double-barrelled surnames and for not being able to cope with people with short surnames (my colleague with the name ‘Ng’ was set up as Nga because the system can’t have less than three letters – sure, just, change her name without asking!)

    I’m fortunate that my current organisation is very responsive to change – I was inadvertently set up by the ‘formal’ version of my name that’s only on my passport and my bank account, but it took one quick webchat with IT Service Desk on my first day and it was changed to my actual name (think ‘Elizabeth’ and ‘Lizzie’).

    1. Ivana Tinkle*

      Ugh – the whole double-barrelled thing can be an absolute nightmare, and not just at work! Our holiday got cancelled when covid hit & I had to wait months for a refund of £thousands because the company’s system couldn’t process a refund when my name had a hyphen in it, but also couldn’t process it when they took the hyphen out because it then didn’t match the name on the credit card!

    2. Over It*

      I grew up with a family whose legal last name was E. They were Chinese-American and that’s how their name got Anglicized when they moved to the U.S. (I think the same name in Chinese is more commonly Anglicized as Yi or Yee, but I could be wrong). I remember they had so many problems filling out forms because systems were not set up to recognize a last name that wasn’t at least two letters long…

  30. Interviewer*

    This sounds like an HR task, but IT is also involved. With this answer, HR is showing their lack of IT knowledge by telling you that is impossible to change, while an IT person would roll their eyes, tap a few keys, click a few boxes, and have your fix ready to go. Most HRIS teams are figuring out how to make these changes, including capturing all of the tenure, pay history, etc.

    Please consider spending your personal capital at work to fix this for yourself and all future requesters. Go above/around the HR team to talk with company leadership, possibly the head of IT or the chair of your diversity committee. Any one of these people should recognize the significance of your request and move the obstacles in your way to get this done.

    If the response is still “we can’t do that,” then it’s not worth spending 40 hours a week with them calling you the wrong name. In an exit interview, I would specify this refusal to correct my own name in their records as the driving reason for my departure.

    Good luck to you both.

    1. Rainy*

      I have a ragey comment trapped in moderation, but often it IS the IT team doing this. Our HR systems have a bunch of mechanisms for declaring and using a preferred name, but IT has a list of approved nicknames and if yours isn’t on it, tough shit.

      1. opinionated on names*

        I will never ever ever understand nickname/preferred name whitelists. They make absolutely NO sense. First of all, there is no way you’re going to capture every other culture’s nicknames. Cultural/Western bias WILL be present. There’s no way around that with a whitelist. Second of all… it’s a nickname? It can be basically anything? My most infuriating example of this is when my friend wanted to get their at-the-time preferred name on their credit card, which some companies allow. Citi, for some ungodly reason, has a whitelist for this. So if your preferred name isn’t on their list… tough shit. Mind boggling.

        For the record, a blacklist makes some sense. I understand not wanting people to be getting funny bad words on their credit card. But this is when I remind folks that Dikshit is a perfectly common Indian name.

        1. Quill*

          Honestly matching nicknames to specific given names isn’t just going to have western bias, it’s going to have specifically English bias. IT having a list that says John can go by Jack but Maria Esperanza can’t go by Esperanza and Christopher can go by Chris but Kristoff can’t sounds like an endless nightmare. And that’s not even considering compound names, cultures where the middle name is the important one for distinguishing a bunch of relatives from each other (See: a huge amount of french history, for example.)

          Reminds me of the time a substitute teacher said my name wasn’t real because it sounded like a nickname of a more common name and demanded to know why I wasn’t in his class roster as my “real” name, then got very mad when the whole class corrected her. Lady, my name is neither your job nor your business but we do not have to select a name from a dropdown of common english names when we name kids.

          (Which would also, programming wise, be a nightmare. Imagine scrolling through the C section for every variation of Catie, Caty, Cathy, Catherine… and then realizing that the K section is going to be a complete repeat with K instead of C)

          1. Rainy*

            When I was in my very early 20s I had a job where I was public-facing and most of the public I was dealing with were extremely entitled. Because they were far too important to actually listen to me, and also the precise species of older person who asserts their dominance by calling you the “correct” form of your name, I had the following conversation at least once a day:
            “Hi Client, I’m Rainy–what can I help you with?”
            “Oh yes, ELAINE” (super enunciated) “I need you to…” (I said Rainy, they always heard “Lainey”.)
            “It’s Rainy, actually, and I’m happy to help you with that.”
            “ELAINE, when you understand professionalism you’ll know that nicknames aren’t professional and you should use your full name when working with clients.”

            1. Quill*

              I have a very similar situation. It’s the extremely uncommon version of “you can’t just be named Kate, you must be properly named Catherine” except that my given name actually predates the name it’s a “nickname” for… it’s just super rare.

              I have definitely mouthed off to people who make almost your exact argument before. Fortunately it stopped happening when I stopped having customer service roles and being visibly still a student.

  31. Erelen*

    Changing a name isn’t always just changing a field. Emails are tied to lots of login and systems access… I’m in IT with a ton of specialized access to a lot of old systems. When I told the systems admin my name had changed, he almost had a panic attack until I told him not to change my email or login, just alias it so I appear by my new name. Changing my login info could have had all kinda of consequences! So some places could have legacy systems that make name changes a lot more difficult than it sounds.

    That said, HR is stupid, names change, and they can always create a second email address that forwards to the original. Systems stay the same and everyone sees the appropriate name.

    1. Spearmint*

      As someone who works with legacy software, I’m not surprised by this either. Legacy software often has surprising limitations, and it really is much harder, time consuming, and expensive to upgrade than you would think. My department (not HR) is siding so right now and it’s a multi-year process involving every team.

      To be clear, companies should get away from legacy software anyway, for the reasons laid out in the OP and many, many others, but it’s not so simple as clicking a few buttons or changing a few lines of code.

      1. Observer*

        Legacy software often has surprising limitations,

        I have worked with some of these systems when they were “up to date.” And even “back in the day” it was possible to change someone’s name and get them a new email address.

        and it really is much harder, time consuming, and expensive to upgrade than you would think.

        If you are running an HRIS or email system that has not been updated at all in the last 10 years, your IT / financial decision makers are flat out negligent. These are sensitive systems, as aside from features, the security implications of systems that have not been maintained is hair raising. So, I don’t buy it.

      2. TRC*

        I support a certain type of software so I’m IT adjacent. We’re working hard right now to make changes easier.
        -Changing names in the HR software is easy.
        -We’ve also had a “Preferred First Name” field for a long time that we use to print out on name tags at events and all sorts of public facing stuff.
        -We recently added a “Preferred Last Name” field also so someone can change their last name as well on public facing things like the name tags without having to legally change their name.
        -Changing an email address and display name is easy with an alias.

        What is most difficult to change is your Windows login and all the programs that use that for SSO (single sign on—so you don’t have to have a different login for each program).

        Some of those programs are easy to change and some have no mechanism to do so because they use the login as the user primary key. Bad design but these are “legacy” systems.

        We can set you up with a new account easily enough but your customizations are all lost.

        In the software I support, we have a developer working right now to write the SQL code to change the user login in the database backend. It’s extremely tricky since it’s the primary key and you normally never want to mess with that in a database. But we’re going to figure out how to do it because it’s just the right thing to do.

        What is particularly dumb is that even though this is legacy software that started development 30 years ago, they’ve gone through a lot of changes where they could have fixed this. I guarantee that they did not start with SSO. So when they implemented that, they didn’t consider this name change issue then. It has to have been a problem for plenty of people, mostly women at that time, for years. But they didn’t think about it.

        It’s even an issue with us employees hired before we implemented Office365. Our logins were With Office365, we changed to

        But existing employees didn’t change our Windows logins because we’d have to jump through the SSO hoops described above for name changes. So we have two logins. New people have one.

        So I totally agree that the effort involved in making changes is likely used as an excuse to say it is impossible in many cases.

        In other cases, it really can be almost impossible unless you happen to have an in-house developer who can basically hack the database for you.

    2. Observer*

      Changing my login info could have had all kinda of consequences! So some places could have legacy systems that make name changes a lot more difficult than it sounds.

      No. Because the issue is not changing log ins, but changing email addresses and the name that shows up in a directory. Any HR / IT person who can’t tell the difference should not be in the job.

  32. SansaStark*

    Ughhhhhhhhhhh my old company was like this about my name. I never legally changed my name after I got married, but I used my married name pretty much exclusively except for anything where my legal name would be required. HR told me they “had” to use my legal name for my email address even though it caused a lot of confusion for external vendors. There were certainly plenty of guys using “Matt@comapny” instead of “Matthew@company” but ok. I became friendly with one of the IT guys and eventually he just made the change for me. No one noticed, no one cared. It was almost as if it was never a big deal at all.

  33. Rainy*

    My organization has identified an allowable set of nicknames for personal names, and if you use a nickname for your given name that isn’t on the list, you cannot get an email alias that reflects what people actually call you. I literally just use my last name as my main work email, because I could get that, but I can’t get Rainy.Lastname@stupidorg.suffix because Rainy is only an approved nickname for Rainbow, not for Rasputina.

    I went back and forth with our IT about this on and off for YEARS, getting nowhere. It was literally easier to change my last name globally in the system when my spouse and I hyphenated than to get my email address to reflect what people actually effing call me. I have colleagues who were giving out an incorrect email address for me for LITERAL YEARS because everyone else’s email is the first and last they go by, but mine isn’t and can’t be.

      1. 2 Cents*

        What are they trying to prevent with that? LOL (Not at the commenter’s predicament, just the person who thought this was a good idea.) “I’m sorry, ‘Edward’ can only be shorted to ‘Ted’ or ‘Ed,’ not ‘Ned.'”

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I pity and fear the poor soul that wants to be a long term arbiter of that policy.

          1. Rainy*

            They got some pretty tart emails from me, I’ll tell you. And I know I’m not the only one.

      2. Queer Earthling*

        I wonder how they decide which ones are approved? Historical usage? “I’m sorry, Jack is not an approved nickname for John, but you can use Jankin or Hann.” ?????

      3. Rainy*

        Yup. Although I don’t know how far they go with this–if my name were Margaret could I go by Peg or Peggy, or did the people who made the authorized nickname lists not know that Peg is a Margaret nickname?

        Regardless, it’s absurd, no one has been able to give me a rational justification for this policy, and I gave up a few years back. My Director got a divorce, had never used her ex-husband’s last name, and still has it attached to her name in some (but not all!) online systems despite years of calling and emailing people, while another colleague got a divorce, had fully taken the spouse’s name, and easily had everything across the organization reverted back to their original family name within days of filing the name change.

  34. Laufey*

    But like…. what if someone misspelled a name when entering a new hire in one of those systems? Would that person have to have a misspelled name for the rest of their career? What is the typo was a naughty word (“Asa”, for example, is one letter on an adjacent key away from a word not usually used in office locations)? Would the company just has an A$$ Jones in the directory forever?

    Does truly no one get hired with vacation time already accrued?

    1. Rainy*

      The excuse about losing all accruals REEKS of “go away, we don’t feel like doing it” to me.

    2. That's not my name*

      I work in an organization that unfortunately has similar policies– you can technically get a name change but it breaks 90% of the systems you use for work, making you fight through a bunch of red tape to get your access back. “Hilariously,” this includes our entire ticketing system, so you can’t even report the issues you’re having!

      The answer to this is that if the person is a new hire, they just delete the profile and start over since there’s barely any data associated with it at that point. If the typo was somehow not spotted until weeks later, then yes, they’d be in the same boat as everyone else.

  35. whatchamacallit*

    I had a boss that changed the name they went by after we started working together. We used gmail as our corporate email client and they were just given a new email address. I truly do not understand how you just “can’t” change these things.

  36. DataSci*

    I suspect “disproportionately impact[ing]” trans people is the entire point of this policy, so pointing that out is unlikely to help.

    1. Queer Earthling*

      Yeah, my first thought is also, like, “Wow people are making things difficult for trans people? What a shock.”

      That said, I also realize that it’s not always malicious; a lot of cis people just don’t think about trans or nonbinary people at all, so maybe the reminder that we exist will help in some cases. I would love if gender diverse people and inclusiveness in general weren’t an afterthought, but it isn’t always hostility.

      1. opinionated on names*

        Something something Hanlon’s razor, though in this case it’s ignorance instead of stupidity.

  37. Alice*

    Why does it fall to OP1 and OP2 to fix this? Especially in the first letter: HR gets that the name change needs to be done, so why is HR just accepting at face value whatever IT told them? Even with the second letter, where HR is clearly part of the problem, why isn’t OP2’s boss advocating to get it fixed? What’s the point of hierarchy and professional HR departments if it’s still left to individual employees to do the things that are important, but not their actual jobs?

  38. Couldn't Pick A Username*

    I’m the head of IT at my organization and those companies are so full of crap. I can’t speak to handling financial account information but it’s really just updating some usernames and setting up some email forwarding.

    One thing I’ve learned is that ‘we can’t do that’ is actually code for ‘we can’t do that unless someone kicks up enough fuss’ when dealing with companies.

  39. Lana*

    “Systems are supposed to exist to serve people, not the other way around.”

    Thiiiiis! I work for a govt agency with really antiquated systems that make work arounds for issues like this challenging and slow, but still possible. (One in particular runs on a black screen with green letters like the MS Dos or whatever version of Oregon Trail ‍) Even then, I hate that they don’t update/swap out these systems for more functional ones.

    1. Spearmint*

      I have some sympathy for employers who struggle to retire legacy software, especially in government. I’ve worked on projects to upgrade legacy software in both government and the private sector, and they are multi-year projects that involve multiple teams and significant amounts of time from high level employees (not to mention they are expensive). I think some people imagine it’s as straightforward as upgrading to a new version of Microsoft Office, and it’s really not.

      I think employers should just clench their teeth and upgrade anyway, as we can see from these letters and many other situations (looking at you Southwest), it always comes back to bite the company in the end, and causes unnecessary problems for employees and customers.

    1. darsynia*

      Gently: I’m seeing concerns that anti-trans people are behind this, not that it’s specifically conservatives. If you’re not anti-trans, you’re not required to be upset about something that’s calling out behavior you don’t engage in! Bringing up legislation is valid, mentioning who is passing it is valid, but lots of us don’t 100% agree with the political party we affiliate with. It’s a lot of wasted energy to find reasons to identify with things you’re not doing, and be offended in case people are accusing you of that!

      That being said, it *is* helpful to suggest that if bigotry is involved in the reticence to change names, it could provide context for the additional effort it might take to overcome. That’s relevant, and not an attack on you.

  40. Bureaucratte*

    In my first job out of college, on my first day, my e-mail was misspelled. Like if my name was Amy Jones my email was set up as “” with an m instead of an n. I asked them to fix is and they said “can’t you just use that e-mail?” I said “no. Because I’ll forever be telling people that my name is Jones but my e-mail is Jomes.” THANKFULLY they fixed it, but the fact that they even COSNIDERED asking me to leave it struck me as so bizarre.

    1. Rainy*

      One of the most annoying employment-related issues I’ve ever encountered is lazy people with institutional knowledge who are in charge of vital systems, because in the name of making their day .0001% less hard, they make everyone else’s LIVES 1000% harder.

    2. lin*

      I actually sort of do this – my email is FirstInitialLastName, except the last letter is dropped off my last name, because I am a DINOSAUR and when that email address was issued back in the 90s there was an 8-character limit for user names. The display name is my full name, but yes, I’m constantly telling people “It’s First Initial, Last Name without the “N” at the end, so Initial123456@ client”… and I do get questions about why that is so.

      You are entirely correct that allowing someone to pin you with the wrong name to forever explain because of their error would be obnoxious! I choose to keep mine because there’s a reason, even if it’s an obsolete reason, and it’s easier than updating everything tied to that address for the last 30 years.

  41. ENFP in Texas*

    Fortune 50 in Corporate America here.

    Our system uses Lastname.Firstname for email and if your name changes, your email address doesn’t. But your Display Name in Outlook will.

    For example, Jane Llama is “llama.jane(at)” and shows in Outlook as “Llama, Jane”

    if she marries Fred Guanaco, her email is still “llama.jane(at)” but her display name in Outlook can be set to “Guanaco, Jane” or “Guanaco (Llama), Jane”.

    We also have some folks who go by a different name, so “James Patrick Vicuna” who goes by “Pat” will have an email address of “vicuna.james(at)” and a display name of “Vicuna, James (Pat)”. The only time I’ve seen this change was when “Pat” made it to VP level, and now his display name is “Pat Vicuna” (so it’s not even “Vicuna, Pat”).

    It’s obnoxious.

  42. Mitford*

    I have a double first name (think Mary Jo or Betty Sue), plus a separate middle name, and have battled for years, YEARS! (I’m 66, so YEARS!) with employers who [allegedly] can only put a first name into their systems, which is hella annoying but not nearly as serious as having systems that effectively deadname transgendered people. One place told me that I couldn’t use Mary Jo because the system only allowed legal first names and mine was Mary not Mary Jo. I told them that the DMV, the passport agency, and the state that issue my birth certificate all begged to differ with that take.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      Grin about double names. I can appreciate that, because until Jr. High, I went by First name, middle initial , but because the initial is the same as a name, many folks thought I had a double first name. I got rid of the initial when I changed schools. Still use it legally, though.

      Another grin. Because I was/am adopted, my birth last name became part of my middle name on my birth certificate. Ohio’s DMV caught it and my driver’s license shows both. My passport only has what I consider my true middle name.

  43. Micah*

    I feel like I’ve read a letter with OP2’s problem before? With the change of name and then no accrued benefits?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I briefly searched the AAM archives and couldn’t find a letter about a name change that would lead to a loss of accrued benefits. Could have been a situation on a different site, or in one of the open threads, or my search skills may be lacking.

  44. Anne Wentworth*

    “People working at companies in jurisdictions without that protection should point out to their employers … that these systems are designed for cisgender male users and ignore a sizable portion of workers.”

    Normally I agree with Alison but in some parts of the UW, people are claiming that “cisgender” is a slur, and it would probably not be safe for LW#2’s girlfriend to frame the problem in these terms. She might have more luck pointing out that having different names in the address and the display will trigger many spam filters and interfere with employee’s ability to contact clients, or that it prevents employees with hard-to-pronounce non-English names from using Anglicized versions at work.

    Can’t they use initials for the email address instead of full first names?

    1. Tinkerbell*

      “Designed for cisgender male users” reminds me of when some gay friends of mine got married (soon after the supreme court decision). The clerk at the courthouse politely asked that if either of them was a junior, III, IV, etc. that they list that name first because the system had replaced “groom” and “bride” with “spouse1” and “spouse2” but apparently still couldn’t handle “spouse2” having any sort of legal suffix. In the rare cases where both grooms were juniors, they had to make a lot of phone calls and pull a lot of strings to get the marriage license to go through.

      (This was years ago now, so I hope it’s fixed!)

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      I don’t think Alison was advising anyone to use that terminology when arguing with the company over this. She’s acknowledging the root of the problem; framing the issue to people in opposition often requires softening language.

  45. Problem!*

    When I got married and changed my last name it took longer for my name change to go through at my office than it did for the social security administration to process it and mail my new social security card. IT straight up deleted my old email address instead of forwarding it to my new one, so all of my many outside business contacts got an auto-reply that I was no longer with the company when they emailed my old address which caused quite a bit of confusion.

    It shouldn’t be this hard, but it is for some reason.

  46. iris*

    LW2: If they wanted to, they could probably put her in as a new employee and manually edit her salary and benefits to match her senority. *But* this is very likely transphobia using technical issues as an excuse. Either someone doesn’t want her to pass, or they’re actively trying to get her to quit.

  47. spcepickle*

    I work in state government, we use standard outlook. I had a new person start and IT spelled his name wrong in his new email address. I was told there was no way they could change it and he should just deal with it.
    Elevated it with a flag that this was coming across as VERY racist and we change people’s emails all the time when they change their names.
    After a brief fight with IT he got a new email address.
    Both these letters and frustrating and dishearten and directly answer the “Why does nobody want to work anymore?” Question.

  48. umami*

    If someone has legally changed their name, then there really shouldn’t have to be a debate with an employer about updating your email address to match your legal name. No one should have to ‘allow’ you to use your correct legal name and force you to use your non-legal name, so for the OP in that situation, that is what I would say.

    I don’t even know what to say to the other OP who goes by a different name than their legal one. It’s such a weird stance to say they won’t update an email address for ANY reason, and they have demonstrated that they … don’t care. Sorry about that.

  49. Chairman of the Bored*

    I bet that if a VP or similar executive-level person wanted to change *their* email address or display name these companies would suddenly find it to be possible after all.

  50. Light Dancer*

    LW2 stated that they’re in a very conservative area; this may be part of the problem. Their company could indeed change employees’ names (companies do this all the time); this company simply doesn’t want to. They may be afraid of local disapproval (boycotting, harassment or threats, smoke bombs thrown through their windows or glass doors, etc.) if word gets out that they’ve changed a trans employee’s name and are thus “woke”. Much safer, as far as the company is concerned, to simply stick with deadnames…even at the expense of their own employees.

    Something is very, very wrong here!

  51. Anya*

    I came here to see if anyone shared the major story breaking on Reddit along these lines – trans woman Leona was working as a game developer at Bethesda (major game publisher) and throughout her transition, the company went to wild lengths to make everything as difficult as possible, including outing her publicly, deadnaming her regularly, and eventually pushing her out. A major part of their stalling process was locking her out of systems because of “name change issues.” Check it out here:

    1. opinionated on names*

      Holy shit, how is this not bigger news? I’m appalled but not surprised, unfortunately.

      1. Observer*

        2 reasons. Firstly, Reddit is a mess right now. Secondly, Bethesda is a hot mess and has been for years. *WILDLY* toxic culture. So this is just more of the same.

  52. Speak Now TV*

    In terms of practical advise, I would:
    1) Contact IT and ask to know what exactly the issue is. Why can’t their system accommodate this? Is there anyone else part of the IT team that could make it happen? Do you need to talk to their manager? Make 100% sure that the issue is that their system literally cannot do this, not that whomever you’re talking to that day doesn’t know how to do it or doesn’t want to put in the effort or is confused about the policy or system requirements. Keep calling if needed, repeatedly – talk to everyone you possibly can about this, and make sure you’re a big enough (but polite) pain in their behind as having an incorrect name listed is for you (or Trisha). Make it so that if the issue is simply how much work it is for them, it becomes less work to change the name than to keep dealing with you.
    2) If that doesn’t work, contact an employment lawyer. Maybe this is all totally legal and nothing can be done about it other than quit… but maybe there is something a lawyer can do to help here.

  53. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    Would pointing out the disproportionate impact on transgender people and women really matter to some employers though? I get that if there’s explicitly a legal risk it might, but part of why it continues as a practice is precisely because it “only” impact these groups.

    I wonder what a business/bottom line argument would be? Does it create inefficiency? Waste time? Create professional confusion or complications with clients?

    1. Observer*

      I get that if there’s explicitly a legal risk it might, but part of why it continues as a practice is precisely because it “only” impact these groups.

      That’s just not the case, though. And, depending on the company, it may be more politically savvy to point out how it causes problems for other people and / or the company.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Yes, framing it as ‘because it affects women more than men, it exposes us to accusations of discrimination’ can be effective.

  54. Friend of HR person*

    We ask people when they onboard to PLEASE think about and decide on name they want. They can change, but they will confuse internal and external contacts if they change.

    I wish college placement offices would give a heads up to grads.

    1. Sharon*

      It would be nice if more companies asked instead of just assigning an email based on your driver’s license or passport! It’s in their best interest to have emails match what people go by so employees can be easily found in the system.

    2. metadata minion*

      This is not really helpful. Yes, it’s useful to note if you go by a different name than your legal name on hiring, but plenty of people change their names during their tenure at an employer for reasons that were not relevant when they started, and systems need to accommodate that.

    3. Dahlia*

      “Please think long and hard if you’ll ever want to get married or maybe transition because it’ll confuse internal and external contacts.”


    4. fhqwhgads*

      Well, in LW1’s case their employer is being exceptionally stupid since they appear to have explicitly asked for both legal name and preferred name, only to turn around and indicate nothing’s going to actually display the preferred name as the name anyway. The bullshit alias mentioned in the letter doesn’t count if it’s a secondary thing you have to look for and not a default anywhere.
      But also, no: people have been changing names for hundreds of years if not longer. It’ll confuse internal and external contacts for about a minute and a half, and then they move on because, duh, people change names for all sorts of reasons.

  55. Anax*

    Just want to note – advocating for the use of preferred names in IT systems is important!

    While name changes due to marriage are streamlined substantially, other name changes are (even more) expensive, time-consuming, and logistically difficult, which can be a major barrier.

    I live in California and changed my legal name because I’m trans, which streamlines the process somewhat – and even then, it’s cost close to $1000(*), several days off work, getting a ride all over the county (up to an hour one-way), and over six months. And the paperwork was baffling, even though I’m usually pretty good at ‘legal-ese’.

    (* $465 for court filings, $25 each for certified copies which other systems require, $130 + passport photo for a new passport, $30 for a new driver’s license, and so on. It adds up pretty quickly.)

    It’s not easy, especially if you’re lower-income, have any trouble with English, or don’t drive. Which is a pretty compelling reason that IT systems should accept that not everyone who WANTS a legal name change can get one.

  56. Llama doctor*

    After working for a multinational corporation with a horrid IT department, databases, etc. where my name was spelled incorrectly as a new hire, it took MONTHS to fix this and get my correct name/email address in all the various databases, litsts ,etc. It’ s the dumbest thing Ive ever seen and suspect the corporation she works for is similar. My sympathies.

  57. ProfessorAnon*

    OMG! This is is giving me flashbacks to ankut a decade ago when a university i worker for (publicly-funded, solidly blue state) would not allow transgender students or employees to change their names in the university directory. A number of offices doubled down on it after a few affected people hired lawyers.

    Eventually, the policy was changed at the systemwide level about a year later and the VP of IT claimed that it was “a big misunderstanding” and that he was “just waiting for the systemwide policy to take effect.” Yeah, no. He just a transphobic jerk.

  58. Dovasary Balitang*

    I knew someone at a previous job who had their name misspelled on their first piece of ID when they emigrated into our country. As in, they wrote their name as Charley, and our government decided it was Charkey. Because of that, they had to be Charkey in our employee directory.

    I’m aware this is an unproductive comment, I just wanted to share this bizarre story.

    1. Valancy Trinit*

      Incredible, truly. I knew a “Charley” who was not in fact a “Charley” but a “Dave” – the HR person onboarding him on his first day somehow decided that his name was “Charley” instead of “Dave”, and he was too passive to ask them to change his name once he realized the error. He simply went by Charley at work from then on.

    2. Lorgar*

      Systems are very weird about letters and people are weirder about following them. I had a coworker whose name had an I (I as in India) followed by a vowel (think Iosef) and both HR and IT misspelled it as “Losef” everywhere. It took forever to sort it out.

      1. Name (Required)*

        My first name also begins with an i, and the sheer number of people who have just decided that I apparently consistently fail to capitalize the first letter of my own name, and “correct” it to an L…. It’s infuriating.

      2. Quill*

        If it’s not copy-pastable that’s probably because you’re using Sans Serif fonts… Serif fonts for president 2024.

    3. Rainy*

      My first husband worked in the same institution as a surgeon who had emigrated to the US from a region where it wasn’t uncommon for people’s documents to list only one name, and the hospital’s system couldn’t accommodate mononyms, so after a great deal of back and forth they ended up just putting his one name in every blank.

      1. Dancing Otter*

        A childhood friend’s father had someone insert an X for a nonexistent middle initial. (possibly the military, as he was a veteran???)
        We must have run through every possible name starting with X – there aren’t many – before deciding it must be Xerxes. My daughter should be grateful that she wasn’t named Xianthippe.

        1. Rainy*

          The cult I was raised in, the Chief Grifter didn’t have a middle name, as was pretty common for people of the time and area he was born, and he was really really insecure about it, so he added a middle initial when the cult started getting bigger to make himself seem like he came from a loftier social class.

    4. Mitford*

      The Navy misspelled my FIL’s name when he was drafted during WWII, and it stuck forever. Addressing wedding invitations was a joy because my husband’s family spells it differently than all of the aunts, uncles, and cousins.

  59. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    For both of these letter writers, it might be worth asking HR what they would do if the company hired a second person with the same legal name. I’m pretty sure it’s neither “we wouldn’t let them hire the second person” or making Jane Smith in accounting share a login and email address with Jane Smith in HR.

    If they can change “RichardJones” to “Richard.AJunes” they can change it to Richie.Jones or Trisha.Jones.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Unfortunately that’s not quite the gotcha it seems. You wouldn’t be changing the existing name in that case you’d just set up the new employee differently. In the case of the company directory, having duplicate names isn’t necessarily an issue they’d just change the alt-text like they did for Beth.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        Not so much a “gotcha” as noting that they aren’t always using the person’s full legal name as the unique identifier, therefore they must have some way of giving someone a unique system identifier that isn’t their full legal name. It’s not clear whether they’re saying “we can’t” because they don’t want to, or because it would be “too much trouble” or they don’t want to call the IT department.

        Right now, one letter-writer’s company is refusing to put “Jane Smith” in the directory instead of “Richard Smith” or “Jane Jones,” as requested.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Well, they seem to be saying they won’t CHANGE an existing one, not that they couldn’t create a new one that breaks the naming convention. They’re wrong either way. It’s nonsense and easy to do in any IT system that wasn’t bespoke and written by their own IT guy 20 years ago and being maintained by duct tape and chewing gum cuz said guy is long gone.
          But point being, if you’re gonna try to rules lawyer them by throwing their own bad logic at them, you’re likely to find out they’d say the new person is about to be

  60. Yes And*

    I have the flip side of this problem: Last year our HRIS rolled out a standard feature that allowed the use of a preferred name, which would become the primary identifier for the employee for all HR functions, and the legal name would only be used for legally required purposes. We rolled this feature out to our company with great fanfare, encouraging people who used a different name than their legal name to update their records. And a few people who go by a different name than their legal name just… didn’t bother.

    It’s mildly annoying to have to remember to look up these people in the HRIS by their legal name which they never use. But it created a real problem in one case, where a new employee’s payroll was submitted under a different name than they had onboarded with, and… nobody told us.

    When we become aware that an employee uses a different name than their legal name, is there any way we can ethically update their preferred name for them in the HRIS? Or is it something they have to self-select into?

    1. UKDancer*

      I think it’s better to leave it to them to self select. Some people are really not bothered enough to want to change something and may not like it if you do. I’ve had a Chinese colleague who has a Chinese name that she uses officially and on her email and an English name that she uses informally among her colleagues. We’ve said she can get the email etc changed to the informal one but she says she’s not bothered. It would be less confusing if she changed it but she doesn’t want to so it’s her choice.

    2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      This is why employee numbers are a thing. They are always unique!

    3. umami*

      I had a direct report like that – he went by his middle name, but he was set up by his first name. His signature indicated his preferred name, and he just DID.NOT.CARE that they had used his first name. It was only an issue when I would tell others they could contact Middle Name and forgot to tell them to look him up under First Name. It helped that his last name was unusual, so he was the only one in the system, but it would throw people off a bit that the first name didn’t match.

  61. Real World Ting Ting*

    I’ve recently been requesting that people call me an old nickname, which is basically my initials. It’s been no problem with my gig work contacts, but FTjobfolk said “no — that’s not your name, you can’t put that in your email signature.” Very confusing, they’re not usually proscriptive like that.

  62. Risha*

    LW1, my job is very similar to yours. I truly understand your frustration at this situation. I applied using my legal name. I’m also professionally licensed which requires you to use your legal name for applying and for email/IM. The internal system has an option for using a preferred name. So I went in and updated it with my preferred name. Then I get a message from my boss saying something like “the preferred name is only for legal reasons, I thought that was clear”. Of course, you cannot tell someone’s tone from email, but at that time, I thought she was a bit frustrated with me trying to update the name, based off her commenting “I thought that was clear”.

    It’s not clear and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t change it to my preferred name. I still don’t understand why she said it’s for legal reasons, a preferred name is not a legal name change. I’ve never been at a job where I couldn’t update to show my preferred name. I’m named after my mom and grandmom-2 women who abused and neglected me throughout my childhood, so I really do not like going by my legal name (of course she doesn’t know that, but it still should not have been an issue for her to allow me to use my preferred name). Most people on the team do call me by my preferred name, including my boss, but I am very frustrated that it’s such an issue to update in the internal system.

    Why give people the appearance of having that option if it’s really not an option for them? Just remove it entirely from the system.

    1. Avery*

      My guess is that by “legal reasons”, she actually means “so we don’t get sued for being transphobic/misogynistic/otherwise bigoted towards groups likely to have preferred names, and we can boast about being ~accepting~ and ~inclusive~ to new hires, but we’re not, like, actually going to DO anything with that information to accommodate them, so it’s just a useless placeholder field for us”.
      Which is disgusting but sadly not that surprising in corporate America…

  63. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Oh come on IT departments, get your act together!

    There is, in my expert opinion, absolutely NO excuse for saying someone cannot change their email address. Just set up a new one and divert traffic from old to new. Job done.

    System logons might be a bit trickier – I stayed under (initial maidenname) for a long time at one firm after being married because I was working in IT and setting up all the permissions again would have been a pain. (I had a LOT of access to systems).

    My husband has a fun time after we got married – since he changed his surname too – and encountered a few sticking points at ‘why does a MAN want to change his name?’ but they changed it in the system in the end. (He works in dev).

    And to those firms using email addresses as primary keys in their HR/Payroll systems? HIRE A DBA. And get better systems because honestly that’s just appalling unless you’re still running a mainframe terminal system.

    If you are? Get a FORTRAN programmer.

  64. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    I reckon it’s quite possibly an issue of “we don’t want to do that, it’s a lot of work”, in which case you could try making it harder for them to not do it than do it.

    Cause confusion, bureaucracy, keep asking about it, raise legal risks (depending on your political capital – and hopefully a reasonable number of colleagues would join you as you can’t be the only one who finds this ridiculous).

    Basically make the existing policy into the difficult, path-of-most-resistance option, instead of the lazy option.

    1. Quite anon*

      It’s really not much work, at least at the beginning, but the rate limiting factor is HR, because if IT changes your name but HR doesn’t, it’s going to mess with finding any legacy accounts that aren’t tied to single sign on when you need your access changed. And a lot of HR departments are hung up on the idea that “we need to use your legal name for everything.”

  65. DaniCalifornia*

    I refuse to believe that any large corporation doesn’t have a system that allows name changes. That would allow no room for errors on whoever is inputting new employees in the system. Is someone supposed to go by a mistake their entire career there? They just don’t want to deal with the relatively minor hassle and that is ridiculous.

  66. Observer*

    An electronic system that doesn’t “allow” for name changes or preferred names is a terrible system.

    This is from #2, but what I’m saying applies to both #1 and #2

    These are terrible systems, but it’s not the *electronic* system that is the problem here. There is no way that a reasonably up to date system “cannot” provide a new email address (or alias, to use technical term), and the same is true for the idea that an HR directory can “only” use someone’s legal name. Yes, a decade or more in the past, there were such systems. And for anyone who says “but maybe they have these old systems because why update systems that working fine”, well, no they are NOT working fine. And it’s not just this issue that’s at play.

    Which means that these *something* is really wrong at these companies.’

    1. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles*

      As I suspected. The electronic system probably DOES allow name changes, but the people behind it don’t want it to.

  67. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    These employers are being ridiculous. Who payroll pays (legal name) should have zero bearing on the email for that person.

    Using a preferred name vs their legal name is also very common among immigrants who don’t want the name “Tai tai” showing up anywhere and would rather be called Suzie because that what they’ve been since grade 2 when they moved to North America and it’s the name they associate with.

    I used a shortened form of my legal full last name at work for years hoping it would get me into certain jobs easier (it didn’t). It didn’t matter for taxation as long as the social insurance number matches. Changing back to my full legal name was a question of a form from HR and my pension, benefits and payroll and even the photocopier all changed over within a matter of weeks. (I didn’t change the email though to avoid confusing anyone.)

    I know of lots of people who managed to change their emails after marriage and after divorce. IT used aliases so that anyone using the old email address would be automatically directed. And we were able, after an IT request and a nudge, to change the name of a trans volunteer in our system too.

    There was that one example of a woman, two jobs ago, whose divorce was so acrimonious that she wanted absolutely no record of her married name anywhere, including aliases. IT reluctantly honoured the wish, pointing out that she would be essentially starting from scratch for anything work related – email, personal drives, network access, etc. Her entire electronic work history (not from an HR POV) wiped out. And it most certainly had no impact on her vacation or hire or seniority status.

  68. JustMe*

    So while I do not agree this should be a thing, sometimes this may be a legal requirement. I have a friend who is a psychologist working with minors, and her state requires EVERYTHING to have her legal, given name. My particular line of work requires a certain level of clearance from the government, and so we’re also somewhat constrained in how names can appear as everything must match a passport/birth certificate (or, I’m guessing, a legal name change document). Just throwing that out there to say that it’s annoying and can be marginalizing, but it may require a bigger system change than employees may expect in certain fields.

    1. One HR Opinion*

      Although I would imagine this is more the exception than the rule, we also have something like that. We have a particular system where we can only use legal name because it is required by the Department of Health and Human Services when someone submits what is essentially medical records. We always feel terrible about this when it is someone who is transgender but hasn’t made a legal name change but our hands are tied.

  69. FaithInCheese*

    Hoping this might be helpful – I actually went through something similar to this when I changed my name at an old company! They couldn’t change my email (government), but what they *could* do was assign another email and attach it to my outlook equivalent. I still had the old deadname@govt.etc tied to things but it was more out of sight out of mind, and anything emailed there was forwarded to inbox.

  70. H3llifIknow*

    “We can only change it if we put you in as a new employee and you lose everything you’ve accrued”???? WHAT THE WHAT? So, not only can they not change names, they can’t manually update benefits, PTO, etc… ?? What a bureaucratic Machiavellian (or perhaps Orwellian?) nightmare.

  71. Falling Diphthong*

    She could do that if she were to voluntarily be put into the system as if she were a new hire — no vacation accrual, no 401k vesting, salary reset.

    I am convinced that an alarming number of “company policies” are that way because no one knows how to do the thing, so the creaking edifice must slough onward no matter how illogical the work arounds objectively are.

    (I imagine this continues until someone high up wants a name change, and then Kazaam! they realize it is possible. But only when the person telling you it is, so, possible can also fire you.)

  72. Shirley You're Joking*

    For a case where someone who is transgender and is being forced to use an email with the wrong name, under penalty of losing benefits afforded to other employees, I wonder if the EEOC (for U.S. employees) would be helpful.

    1. Observer*

      Only if the policy is only applied to certain people. Otherwise, even with disparate impact, you’d have a hard time *proving* “true” damage. Emotional distress, which this would probably be considered has a really high bar.

  73. Good Wilhelmina Hunting*

    A firm I worked for a few years ago had one of those document management systems where everyone had a three-initial identifier. Where people had duplicate initials, they sometimes ended up with an X or a Z as their middle initial, or a combination of letters and numbers. I did not have the same initials as anyone else, as I have a unique set of initials that has recognisable heritage connotations in my country (think something like “VTS” for “Vintage Teapot Society”). So I was miffed when the firm insisted on giving all new fee earners their own actual initials (except in the odd case of a duplicate, as mentioned previously), but support staff automatically received their first and last initials and a number. So now I end up being “VS2” on the system for no particular reason, even though I asked at the outset if I could still be “VTS”. Calling someone by a name they don’t go by is rude. I think the same can be said for initials.

  74. Big Bird*

    I worked for a small financial services company that was purchased by a large insurance company. As part of the transition we were all assigned new “” email addresses, using our legal names. This was a big problem for our Asian and South Asian staff who had long been using unofficial first names that were easier for US clients to remember and spell.

    After we did all the work transitioning our clients to new platforms they laid us all off, but we enjoyed some schadenfreude because Large Insurance Company forgot to notify our landlord that they were not renewing the lease on our office space, so the lease automatically renewed for another FOUR years. Don’t know how that ended but we got a good laugh out of it.

    1. Quill*

      When I did a lot of work with a latin america branch I had a similar problem. Most people had compound last names and the (Ancient, dying, hated) internal system that we used to assign various people to sign off on various paperwork couldn’t handle a space or a hyphen… so you had to know whether Luisa Gonzales Gutierrez was Luisa.Gonzales, Luisa.Gutierrez, or Luisa.Guitierre (there was an absurdly small maximum number of characters in the display name) to get stuff done. I had to make a post it note directory to stick to my wall.

      Management was surprised by how vocal we all were about how much the system sucked and it needed to be replaced before it imploded and took all our data with it.

      1. Rainy*

        My spouse and I discovered when we hyphenated our names exactly how terrible many companies are at handling hyphenated names. I’d probably do it again anyway, but people make some WILD assumptions when your name is hyphenated.

  75. Brain the Brian*

    I work at a company that has offices in several countries that primarily use a non-Latin alphabet, and our local HR departments frequently transliterate the names of new employees differently than the new employees themselves prefer to spell their names in Latin characters. So, for instance, we might wind up with someone whose name is Wenhyng Lee in their email address but who uses Wenhung Li as their signoff in the body of emails (I am intentionally using names from a different part of the world than the one where my company actually works — but you get the point). HR refuses to fix this, despite it being maddening to everyone.

  76. AdequateAdmin*

    When I married, I hyphenated my name and became “Tangerina Smithward-Jonesington” It’s long and awkward, but it’s the name I use. I got married during COVID and for a myriad of reasons have not done the legal name change yet. Legally my name is just “Tangerina Smithward”. I have never gone by “Tangerina Jonsington” ever.

    I began a job at the same place my husband worked. I filled all my legal paperwork out as “Tangerina Smithward”. I sign all my emails with hiring department and my supervisor as “Smithward-Jonesington” when arranging first day details. I introduced myself over the phone as “Tangerina Smithward-Jonesongton”. First day everything is set up as “Tangerina Jonsington”. Even my email. I contacted IT and apparently it was going to be a huge deal to change and they were working on it blah blah blah. The kicker was we were using the same software as my previous job where 1. name changes took 5 minutes and 2 emails tops, and 2. they figured out how to handle my hyphenated name.

    Eventually they did a software change and were miraculously able to change my name on everything.

  77. shame on them*

    NC State University (I’m calling them out because they deserve it) will allow a preferred name and pronouns to be displayed. The prefered name will appear in the university directory and, for students, in a number of other official locations.

    However. The email address you get when you enter the university as a student or employee cannot be changed. And some official locations will show the legal name and then the preferred name. Hence trans students get outed to their instructors and, if an instructor is careless in calling roll, to their classmates as well.

  78. Name (Required)*

    This is infuriating. I worked at an institution once that wouldn’t let me change my email address, which was the standard “first initial last name @ domain dot com”, when I changed my surname after getting married for IT-related reasons, supposedly. (I don’t buy it. They can easily create a new email address and enable email forwarding for the old one for a period of time before deleting that older account. But whatever.) It gave me no end of trouble from people who would see my name come up in emails as “Jane D. Smith” but the email address would be jdoe@domain dot com, and they’d act VeRy CoNfUsEd about it all. Anyway it was a pain in the ass. Separately, I used to go by my middle name but hadn’t changed my name legally, so sometimes people would ~discover~ my “real” name and start calling me that, even though I’d never told them that name and had always gone by a different one to them.

    So LW1’s situation is bad enough, but LW2’s was really troubling. One’s name is a personal thing and a matter of identity; it was aggravating enough to me to have people accidentally-on-purpose misname me, and even felt kind of violating, but on the question of gender it’s even worse. To be forced to continue using a male-gendered first name that you don’t ever use anymore, at your place of work, which your livelihood is contingent on, every day, is so degrading and demoralizing. Honestly it’s the kind of thing I can imagine someone quitting over, if they were in a position to do so.

  79. Writer Claire*

    My parents named me after my grandmother for my first name, but always called me by my middle name. For *years* I never had a problem using my middle name for work–until my last job. My manager had handled the paperwork for my email, so that used my middle name, but once I handed in my onboarding paperwork, everything else listed me by my first name–ID card, employee directory, etc.

    HR told me it was because they were required by the government. (This was a state university.) I don’t know, but after a year, I decided I’d had enough and legally changed my name. Old middle name became my first name, and I picked an entirely new one for my middle name. It was tedious work and obviously cost money, but for me it was worth the trouble.

    Note: I had nothing against my grandmother. She was awesome. But her name wasn’t mine.

    1. Jiminy cricket*

      “Required by the government”?! As if “the government” (which?) has time to care how you are listed in directories and on IDs. That is a weak excuse.

      1. Writer Claire*

        That’s my opinion too.

        HR mumbled something about “legal ID” and “legal name” and really never gave me a plausible reason other than they just didn’t want to. In the end, I was happy with my new legal name, even if I wasn’t happy with the university.

      2. LJ*

        That reason sounds plausible though… this isn’t “the government” requiring it for some random employer, this is the state having a policy for all state employees, including at the state university. A poor policy to be sure, but it doesn’t sound like HR pulled it out of nowhere.

        1. Writer Claire*

          I should have been clearer–yes, it was the state government and a state university. I still thought the policy was needlessly inflexible.

          Anyway, I have moved on, retired, and divorced my husband, so now I have a completely different last name, one I chose for myself. I doubt I will ever marry again, but even if I do, I am happy with the name I now have.

  80. e271828*

    I am fanficcing here, but if a white middle-aged man walked into HR and explained that he needed to change his name as a condition of unexpectedly being eligible to receive a substantial inheritance, I bet they’d congratulate him and do it.

    1. shame on them*

      They would not at NC State U. I’ll give them that — they are equal opportunity offenders.

  81. Rocky Mountain (not) High*

    I just started at a company that is the same way, and I HATE it. My job is primarily externally-facing and I have been in the professional world for over 20 years by one name and now I am being forced into using a legal name that I have never gone by in my entire 40+ years of living. It is so disrespectful and potentially discriminatory. Even though I just started, I already know that if doesn’t change it will be factor in any decision I make to leave in the future.

  82. Post Script*

    My supposedly liberal college wouldn’t let a divorcee from an abusive marriage change her email address, so she got to keep seeing his name all day, every day at work, forever.

  83. I'm A Little Teapot*

    I worked for a company that would make changes to names, but sometimes there were weird issues. For example, when you made travel arrangements the HR system fed employee data to the travel company. So, when I changed my name from my longer, legal first name to my shorter very common nickname on the org chart, this also changed my name on my W-2 (hassle, but fine) and in the travel company website, with no way to change it. Well, TSA requires your full name. And there was no work around that I found so I had to change it back on the org chart. For me, it was annoying but not an issue. I’m sure it was an issue for other people.

  84. just another queer reader*

    I work for a large company with a pretty good IT department and they still cannot figure out how to get Microsoft to stop using my coworkers’ deadnames in random places.

    A different company’s IT department spooled up a whole project along with the LGBTQ employee group to clean up their IT systems [so their systems stopped deadnaming employees].

    I wish it wasn’t this hard, but it seems it is. :/

  85. Bromaa*

    OP1: If they’re telling you Outlook won’t let you do this, that’s a full lie. Workday will also allow this, as will Slack and Zoom. It’s just a giant pain for them and they don’t want to. I just went through a massive process to get my company to display my name correctly after I changed it; if you can take the hit, you’ll make life so much easier for the next trans person trying to do something like this. They CAN change your Outlook directory name. I’m looking at mine right now.

  86. Avery*

    Adding a positive anecdotal story here in the hopes that it might help balance out all the negative anecdotes in this comment thread:
    I transitioned, including legally changing my name, some years after graduating from college. I sent my college administration an email letting them know my new name for their files.
    Not only did they change my name in their files, they voluntarily changed my old college email address to one fitting my new name, with emails sent to the old email address automatically sent to the new one. Not a big deal for me, since I’d mostly stopped using that email address in the years in between, but definitely a nice gesture on their part.
    I think they might have had a “Congrats!” note in their reply email address, too.
    I was pleasantly surprised by how on top of things they were there. On the other hand, this was the college I went to where about half my friend group ended up coming out as some flavor of trans (mostly after graduation like myself), so maybe they’re just used to it by now.

  87. LW2*

    LW2 here! Thanks all for being supportive and outraged on our behalf <3. Wanted to clear up a few things –

    – Changing her name in the system would result in the loss of her vacation time *accrual rate* and reset her 401k vesting schedule, as she would be considered a new hire. Not existing PTO! (Thanks to the insightful commenters who pointed out that this policy may conflict with the rules of the 401k management company.)

    – This policy applies to all employees, regardless of gender, who legally change their names. (aka – not an issue with "legal name change" vs "preferred name change".) The policy has been in place for as long as anyone can remember.

    – I can only assume that the W2s go to the legal name, but that is something important to follow up on.

    1. Quill*

      I have a feeling that the loss of accrual rate and vesting schedule is still not compliant with the employer’s legal obligations if you’re in the U.S.. Putting someone in as a “new hire” when they’ve actually been working for years could be legally problematic. I’m guessing that the employer may not know if it’s legally a mess, given that most people probably don’t bother getting it changed in the system. If I were you I’d look into it, there are probably employment lawyers drooling at the idea of challenging a policy that changing your name at work to match legal documents could end up with a system that specifically cheats trans people and women who marry and change their last names out of their benefits.

    2. Middle of HR*

      The 401k vesting aspect is not just an issue for the vendor managing the 401k, but legally they can’t just… decide someone isn’t eligible for things they were a minute ago. 401k laws and regulations are set by the Federal government. Screwing up retirement plans can make them ineligible for pretax status so companies need to be super careful.

  88. Llama Llama*

    I was married 16 years ago. I had my name changed in the system but my email was still my maiden name. 10 years ago, my company was acquired. My new company still someone incorporated my old name! Even though I reviewed the documents and saw the name and said they should remove it.
    It is seen only in select systems but it certainly has caused confusion because Llama Llama is not there. Llama Goat is.

  89. neal*

    my (trans) girlfriend is going through a similar thing at the tech company she recently started working for. Her display name on some things are the name that she goes by, but some other key programs she uses are under her deadname for seemingly no reason. After useless IT tickets, she finally went to DEI and they were able to start the process of helping her. Absolutely grimly ironic though that last month she was getting corporate pride month emails sent to her deadname.

  90. Teapot Unionist*

    I know that the US Department of Education has interpreted FERPA’s requirements that medical/disability status can’t be disclosed to mean that schools must re-issue diplomas (even long-earned ones) with new names for trans alums. While it might not be a HIPAA violation, if I were trans or advocating for a trans employee, I would have the conversation with HR from a place where OF COURSE they would want to take steps to keep PERSONAL MEDICAL INFORMATION PRIVATE and obviously, they must agree to changing a name in the system immediately.

  91. Quest-Melissa*

    Quest Diagnostics does the first thing. Very frustrating for both people who can’t remember that Jane is actually Melissa or forgets to scroll down to Melissa’s signature in an email chain, as well as Melissa who hates the name Jane and never uses it.

  92. lafcolleen*

    I am the chair of my union. Every month I get a roster of the unit’s members so I am aware of new hires, departures, and changes in job classification.

    A few months ago, I got a roster with two deadnames and I immediately brought it to HR’s attention. They were horrified!

    These particular individuals are in our payroll system under their legal names. My company uses an outside vendor / program for payroll. However all other IT systems use their chosen name.

    HR explained that it could not list them in payroll under their chosen name for legal reasons BUT immediately tweaked the system so that any reports generated from the payroll system would identify them by their chosen name.

    Problem fixed within 24 hours and these members don’t have to worry about this happening again.

    So, we had a vendor and management work together to make sure our company’s expressed need to be inclusive was met immediately.

    None of these programs are inherently unchangeable. this is a won’t change. not can’t.

  93. Dragon Tea Smithy*

    I had to have my work email address changed due to a cyberstalking situation. They also did NOT want to forward emails to my old address to me. They were still able to get my information changed in Outlook so if my name was searched, the new email would show up instead.

  94. Orange You Glad*

    I’m sure it’s not that the systems *can’t* make the change, but that it takes extra work someone doesn’t want to do.

    When my coworker changed her name after getting married, it was easy for her to get her HR/payroll stuff updated but it took over a year for IT to change her email address.

    1. Sophia*

      I think this is exactly it. I have spent the last several years as the only person patient and persistent enough to help people get every instance of an email changed. We have three different potential log ins each with several emails that can be listed. Then, they all feed to many other systems. When creating those feeds apparently no one ever talked to each other, so some systems feed the primary email from your Active Directory and others feed the institutional email from the NetID. I work with two systems (a learning management system and an assessment system) that need to talk to each other and they authenticate with email address. And the resistance to changing the primary email field for people whose name had changed years ago SO THAT STUDENTS COULD SUMBIT THEIR ASSIGNMENTS was amazing to me. These problems were caused by setting up the alias/second emails, but somehow not changing the primary, which no one can see, but is now popping up as an identifier in this new system. They kept saying the solution was getting rid of the Alia’s, and having the student change their email BACK to their old name! I have prevailed but I am salty and know way more about identity management than I though I would ever need to when I took a job designing online courses! .

  95. pcake*

    About six years ago, Disneyland started a policy where adults could only get their first name as seen on their drivers licenses on their hats. I was dismayed, as I don’t use the name on my license nor does anyone address me that way, so I didn’t get the hat (after trying at several stores and being told the same thing at every one).

    Hopefully this policy has been discontinued. Too bad it’s rearing its ugly head in business.

  96. LifebeforeCorona*

    We can land a spacecraft on Mars but can’t make a simple name change in the system because “it’s too difficult.”

  97. Numbat*

    When I returned from parental leave my work had deleted my old email account and I had become

    Every single account under my old email address became un-usable and I was to start from scratch. I couldn’t do my job properly.

    Despite being told it couldn’t be restored, I made a written complaint and got my manager and director involved; magically my old email account was restored.

    Incidentally, on top of the inconvenience, I hated the idea that you could tell how many times a colleague had gone on parental leave based on their email address. Ew.

  98. anon24*

    This is just horrifying. I legally changed my name because I deeply despised the name I had. I didn’t actually talk to my co-workers or boss about it ahead of time, so no one knew. The day after my court hearing approving the name change I emailed our HR person and said “hey, I had my name legally changed, here’s a copy of the court order but I haven’t been able to update my ID yet and it’s going to be a bit until I can update my professional license, so let me know the time frames for when we want to change things in the system”. Within 40 minutes she had sent an email out to all of management notifying them of my name change so there was no confusion, had contacted our IT person to change my logins, contacted anyone else who dealt with various systems and would need to know the change, and IT had already contacted me and started updating my logins, contacting vendors to update the ones for outside systems, and set up a new email for me and already set the old email to permanently forward over. I was incredibly impressed, but I did not expect things to move that fast so then I had to awkwardly explain to my co-workers why there was suddenly a person they’d never heard of listed as working on their projects. And everyone at work was super cool and nonchalant about the name change too (unlike in my personal life), I had a few co-workers privately ask me if I was ok/safe or if I needed any help and after I assured them that I (and my marriage) was fine they spread the word around that this was just a thing I wanted to do.

  99. Tomato Soup*

    My husband and I have both had the experience of starting a new job and finding our last name misspelled. In my case, my manger said she’d changed it from what was on all of my application materials because “it just didn’t look right”. Ours isn’t a common last name but we do share it with a relatively well known author (his aunt). Would this company leave me sick with a misspelled name in their system? My experience happened at a semi functional government agency and even they managed to get everything corrected in 48 hours.

  100. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

    “…this clearly is deliberate malice.”

    Absolutely, especially when it’s mandated by law like this. I firmly believe that these Alabama laws and similar ones in other states are intended to make trans people’s lives as difficult as possible. If deliberate persecution is not the stated reason, it’s surely the result.

    Lawmakers make laws like this for only one reason: because they have decided that certain kinds of people don’t have the right to exist. In this case, Alabama lawmakers have decided in their infinite wisdom (heavy sarcasm) that being trans gender is not a “real” thing, that we are all the gender dictated by the genitals we were born with, period, full stop. (They ignore the whole issue of intersex people, who are born with ambiguous genitals, either because they are ignorant of such phenomena or because they simply can’t be bothered.)

    Since they don’t belive trans gender people really exist, they see no reason the state should be inconvenienced by letting people change their name or gender designation on legal documents to reflect how they actually identify. You are either afab or amab, end of story, their reasoning goes. (Again, there is no recognition that intersex people exist.) They don’t believe anyone CAN be any gender other than what’s on their birth certificate as it was issued at birth, and anyone who disagrees is regarded as “confused” or “deluded.” They see no reason to allow people to make changes in paperwork to reflect something that, in their narrow view, does not even exist.

    At some level, unconscious or not, I think they assume that declining to recognize gender transitions or name changes related to such will somehow magically cause trans gender people to cease to exist. If they can continue to call John “Jane” and force “her” to continue using a driver’s license or state i.d. that says “f” instead of “m,” [fill in the blanks with numerous other examples], they think “she” will be forced to accept that “she” really is Jane and stop trying to “pretend” otherwise.

    Unfortunately, often tragically, that is not how any of this works. You can’t force a trans man like John to be a cis woman, because he simply is NOT. All you can do is make his life miserable in 1,000 different ways, which they are perfectly happy to do. If John eventually leaves the state for one where he can get better treatment, they’ll count that as a win. If this (God forbid) ends tragically for John or others like him, they’ll shrug their shoulders.

    People like the ones who make those Alabama laws are despicable, and they make me feel not just stabby but like “HULK SMAAASH!!!!!!” I can’t even begin to imagine how it would feel to b pe the parent of a trans person, much less actually BE trans in a state with anti trans laws. :-(((((

    I hope and pray that the US can get past this kind of bigotry very, very, very soon.

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      Argh, nesting fail! This was supposed to be a reply to The Gollux, Not a Mere Device* in the very first thread of the replies!

      I swear this board has nesting gremlins. This sort of thing has happened to me too many times to be mere coicincidence, and I’ve also seen too many “Oops, nesting fail” posts from others not to think there’s something weird going on, lol.

  101. WS*

    I work in healthcare and some years ago when electronic health records were introduced nationally, we had to have everyone’s legal name on their file. It took one month for the notoriously slow national health IT system (so for more than 20 million people) to include “preferred name” as a field. It might not even have taken one month, but that’s when we got the update. Unless there’s more than 20 million people at your workplace, they’ve made up their own problem. And even if there’s more, they can fix it in under a month.

  102. Yikes Stripes*

    This is surreal. What on earth would the second company do if two people working there happened to have the same name? It’s not as farfetched as you might think – my cousin and I have the exact same name and we worked at the same book store in high school. Fortunately for everyone involved, she’s been Kitty since birth and I’m Ren, and that’s what was on our nametags.

    (It’s a family name and there’s seven of us in my generation, spread out over fifteen years and both first and second cousins. Christopher gets the same treatment with the boys, and we have an extremely common last name.)

    1. Momma Bear*

      One company I worked for gave them numbers. So the first one was John Smith and the second John Smith 2.

  103. elle kaye*

    Long time network & MCP Windows admin here.
    It is absolutely, fundamentally untrue that you cannot change names in Microsoft Outlook, whether that’s on prem or Azure Office 365, etc.
    There are several different ways to change names, including aliases, which allow the creation of a new email address tied to the same existing account. Frankly, this is what I, in my professional expertise in this area, considered “advanced beginner” level for a good IT admin.
    If HR doesn’t ask, I imagine HR may not know, but I can also imagine many an IT admin claiming it can’t be done even if they know it can because they don’t want to do the work. I can also imagine some bad hires in the IT world.
    But yep, the system itself? Absolutely doable.

  104. Aphrodite*

    I wonder if they’d allow it if you used the court petition method to legally change your name. I did that, changing all three–first, middle and last–and still some places still required me to bring in an official copy of the court decree to “prove” it.

    Thank goodness I didn’t use the “usage” method or I’d have two entirely different names.

  105. Pups & Politics*

    Apparently, Gmail doesn’t let you change your email address. So there’s a good chance that the company simply cannot change the programming, unfortunately. They would have to change the system entirely. And unfortunately, a lot of companies likely find that too expensive or too much hassle to bother with it.

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