… the HR Minion. Because even minions have opinions. And giggles.

A rock and a hard place

Now, I don’t usually discuss politically charged subjects on this blog, I try to keep it more about funny rants/opinions/occasional information, but this story came through my reader today and it just so full of HR gray area that I had to post it to you, my darlings readers, because I was curious how you would react to it.

Quick Breakdown: A Macy’s employee saw a transgender customer exiting the women’s dressing room. She approaches the customer and refuses to let her re-enter. Macy’s has an LGBT policy that allows transgender customers to use either the men’s or the women’s dressing room. This was pointed out to the employee and she cited religious discrimination as she felt complying with the policy violated her Christian faith by causing her to “compromise with homosexuality”. The Macy’s employee was then fired for refusing to comply with the policy.

Welcome to the world of HR where policies, belief, and equality all collide in a battle of wills. Which one will be the victor?

Let’s say that you are the HR pro who gets this problem. What would you do? Strict adherence to policy so termination? Move the employee to a comparable position within the company where this wouldn’t be an issue? Re-evaluate/change policy to accommodate religious freedom?

Personally, I support Macy’s stance that they want to promote a culture of non-discrimination towards the LGBT community. Makes me want to go spend money there right now. However, religious discrimination is also a very valid concern and business are required to make reasonable accommodations whenever possible, as the article points out with Pharmacists who refuse to fill birth control prescriptions.

For me, I have two questions: Is managing dressing rooms a critical function of her job? And if yes, are no alternatives available either for the customer (Other employees who can assist them) or for the employee (Another position they can be moved into)?

If it is a critical function and no alternatives exist, I would argue that compiling with company policy is an unavoidable part of her job and the employee should be expected to follow it as a condition of her employment. Taxi drivers who refused to pick up drunk passengers or passengers with service animals because it violated their religious beliefs have been found to be in the wrong. Picking up passengers is a critical part of the job and they weren’t allowed to discriminate in such a manner, in spite of their beliefs.

But if it isn’t critical or if there are alternatives… I don’t know. I think Macy’s was probably too quick to let this employee go without trying to accommodate her religious beliefs. Even if she acknowledged the policy and Macy’s is committed to non-discrimination of the LGBT community they could have still violated Title VII.

No lawsuits or claims have been filed as of yet, and by no means am I a lawyer so I can’t hazard a guess how the law will come down on this issue if given the opportunity.

But what decision would you have made if this was your company? I would love to hear your opinion so hit me up in the comments!

4 Responses | Add your Own

  • 1 Jonathan Hyland :

    If it was my company: the employee would’ve been terminated and gone within the hour, with my deepest apologies to the customer for having her shopping experience ruined.

    From what I can see as a customer, the floor sales reps do quite a bit – including monitoring and managing the dressing rooms. And it sounds like this sales rep was just dumb… Transgender does NOT mean gay. Did I miss the part of Leviticus that said “men can’t dress like women and vise versa”? This was clearly ignorance AND discrimination on the sales rep’s part.

    And need I mention that this policy was probably explained to said sales rep as part of the hiring process?

    There is no accommodating bigotry, even when it’s masked as a religious conviction. Macy’s moved swiftly and accordingly, as well as smartly. Macy’s sells fashion, and last I checked fashion is an industry the gays almost have a monopoly on. There would have been DEFINITELY repercussions if Macy’s had done nothing.

    In fact, I can’t even see *how* this violates her religious freedoms. Many mis-informed Christian fanatics believe that “religious freedom” means they can willfully discriminate against anyone their Bible deems to be deviant. As you’ll recall, faith was used to condone slavery and claim that African-Americans were 3/5s of a person.

  • 2 Ashley :

    I feel like when you choose to work somewhere, you choose to abide by their policies. There are policies at my company that I don’t agree with, but I choose to work here. If she doesn’t want to abide by the policies, she shouldn’t work there.

    We aren’t allowed to discriminate against employees because of gender identity or sexual orientation, so our employees shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate against customers for those same reasons.

    A company has the right to set the policies they believe are right, and if the employee chooses not to follow them, they can find a different company. For me, it’s a pretty clear decision.

  • 3 Shauna :

    Jonathan – Thanks for the great comment, you have great passion for this! 🙂

  • 4 Shauna :

    Ashley – I agree, if you are working for a company you are also agreeing to follow their policies and culture, thanks!