An internal City of Dallas “gender transition” toolkit requires all public employees to use a transitioning person’s preferred pronouns regardless of personal beliefs.
The document, obtained by The Dallas Express via an open records request, lays out the protocols and procedures adopted by the City to “support an inclusive and productive workplace environment.”
Officially titled “Workplace Gender Transition Protocols & FAQ,” the document was lauded by City staff during a recent City Council committee meeting, with Human Resources Director Nina Arias telling council members, “I would like to highlight our gender transitioning information toolkit,” as a part of Dallas’ efforts to improve “recruitment and retention.”
The toolkit defines transitioning as “[t]he process of changing one’s gender from the sex assigned at birth to one’s gender identity.”
“There are many ways to transition,” it continues. “A transition can be social, legal, and/or medical. Transition may include ‘coming out’ (telling family, friends, and coworkers), changing the name and/or sex on legal documents, and/or accessing medical treatment such as hormones and/or surgery.”
City employees, the document explains, “are expected to respectfully use the transitioning employee’s preferred name and pronouns, regardless of whether or not they ‘believe in,’ approve of, or accept an individual’s right to be transgender or undergo a gender transition.”
“An employee has the right to be addressed by the name and pronoun of their choice,” the toolkit adds. “Our addressing the employee by their chosen pronoun is a sign of respect for them as an individual.”
The City of Dallas lists “refusing to respect an employee’s gender identity by intentionally referring to an employee by a name or by pronouns that do not correspond to the employee’s gender identity” as a form of discrimination and harassment.
The transitioning employee’s manager is required to police pronoun usage, “ensuring that other employees in the workplace adjust to using the new name and pronoun(s) as soon as possible.”
If anyone refuses to use the preferred non-biological pronouns for any reason, the offending person “will be investigated” and “may be disciplined up to and including termination.”
Furthermore, the transitioning employee has the opportunity to dictate how offending employees will be treated by management.
In a section directed to supervisors, the toolkit instructs them to “[d]iscuss how the employee would like to handle name and pronoun mistakes that may occur in the first few months” and “[d]iscuss how the supervisor will address persistent and/or intentional misuse of names and pronouns that may occur.”
Finally, in the transition timeline plan, supervisors are instructed to inform the team of “the expectation that everyone will behave respectfully and use the new name and pronouns … regardless of any personal views they may hold.”
Some groups have recommended measures such as those outlined in Dallas’ transition guidance as a workplace best practice. Human resources company Culture Amp, for instance, “recommend[s] including deadnaming and incorrect pronoun usage in your formal definition of harassment and reflecting these in your policies. Doing so will set a firm expectation for respect and inclusion of trans, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming employees.”
As demonstrated by recent court cases, however, the requirement to use non-biological pronouns in a government setting despite a person’s sincerely held beliefs could violate constitutional provisions protecting the freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
For example, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held in 2020 that it could not require anyone doing business before the court to use someone’s non-biological pronouns, ruling that “no authority supports the proposition that we may require litigants, judges, court personnel, or anyone else to refer to gender-dysphoric litigants with pronouns matching their subjective gender identity.”
In 2021, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a public university violated a professor’s right to free speech by punishing him for refusing to use a student’s preferred pronouns. The court acknowledged that “consistent with the First Amendment,” the government did not have “a compelling interest in regulating employees’ speech on matters of public concern.”
Along the same lines, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas struck down the Biden administration’s attempt to make states classify non-preferred pronoun usage as harassment in 2022, calling the guidance “arbitrary and capricious.”
At the time, Attorney General Ken Paxton called the decision “a win for the rule of law” and said, “The Biden Administration’s attempts to radicalize federal law to track its woke political beliefs are beyond dangerous.”
“I will continue to push back against these unlawful attempts to use federal agencies to normalize extremist positions that put millions of Texans at risk,” the now-impeached Paxton said.
A 2021 State of California appellate court decision held that a state law mandating preferred pronoun usage violated constitutional protections, noting, “A person’s right to speak freely prohibits the government from compelling adoption of a government message and protects the right of citizens to refrain from speaking.”
Several other lawsuits across the country have been successfully argued or are in ongoing litigation regarding government attempts to compel employees to violate sincerely held religious beliefs or otherwise infringe upon their first amendment rights, as noted by the legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom.
Ian Prior, senior legal advisor for America First Legal, argued to The Dallas Express, “The First Amendment right to speak includes the right not to speak. Radical transgender policies such as forcing someone to use ‘preferred pronouns’ undermine free speech and are an attempt to bend the knee to leftist activists by demanding that people reject reality, and recite lies that they do not believe.”
“This dangerous precedent is as morally unconscionable as it is unconstitutional,” Prior suggested. “If challenged in court, Dallas would find that the First Amendment remains unwavering in the face of the unlawful political agendas of special interests.”
The Dallas Express reached out to the City of Dallas for clarification on how the gender transition toolkit’s requirements of preferred pronoun usage might impact employees’ constitutional rights but did not receive a response prior to publication.