Changing my name at work, Part 1: The Administration

So, I mentioned a few weeks back that my work’s enforcement of name tags spurred me to actually tell them that I’d changed my name, and to ask them to use my real name from now on. It did not go as smoothly as I had hoped. And so this is the first in a series of posts telling the story of what it took to get my name changed at worked.

Back on June 15th, I sent my HR Person a short email letting her know that I had changed my name, and what my new name was. I also made it clear that this was not a legal name change, but that I assumed that wouldn’t be a problem.

The response in its entirety:

Hi [birthname],

We use whatever name is on the identification supplied to us during your payroll sign-up. If we receive formal notification of a legal name change, we will adjust our records accordingly.

So, to be very, very clear, I know for a fact that this is blatantly untrue. I work with many people who go by names other than the one on their id, or who go by versions of their legal name, or their middle name, or whatever. Nevertheless, I didn’t feel like making accusations of bad faith was likely to get me anywhere.

I also noticed that the person I’d emailed didn’t actually have HR in her title, and realized that it was possible I had gotten in touch with the wrong person.

I replied that I understood that they had to keep my legal name on record, and acknowledged that it is what I use for tax purposes and the like, and clarified that I was only seeking a change in informal use, (i.e. how I was referred to at work, and the name on my tag.) I also asked whether I had gotten in touch with the wrong person for handling these informal aspects.

I quickly received a reply (again addressed to my birthname of course) which truly boggles the the mind.

The person I was emailing confirmed that she was, in fact, the HR person, and the correct person for me to be in touch with. She then added:

I discussed your request with the CEO prior to my response to you on June 15. My apologies for not making it clear that I was responding on behalf of the CEO.

We require confirmation of a legal name change in order to adjust our records.

Yeah. Apparently at my workplace right now, HR is not authorized to process name changes without CEO approval. Because that makes total sense, y’all!

And I mean, it’s not like I didn’t know what was going on. The CEO is the person who has been slamming the hammer down hard on making us all wear our name tags, and not to alter them in any way to cover our names, under explicit threats of discipline and veiled threats of firing. I figured she thought I was deliberately kicking up shit, and didn’t want to set a precedent for letting people just say that their name name is something else (although I actually think they should totally be able to do so).

Anyway, I responded with a very long email, explaining my situation in detail. I said that I had changed my name socially over a year ago, that it was what I was called everywhere except for at work. I actually changed my name before starting my current contract, but I applied under my old name in order to have name recognition. I explained that I had originally intended to just ride out this contract under the old name, but that the introduction of name tags in particular had seriously amped up the dysphoria I was experiencing, and that continuing to do so was no longer a reasonable option for me.

I acknowledged that when the name tags were first introduced there had been occasions that I had not worn mine, and that that was because I had trouble getting into the habit. I also acknowledged that I had subsequently covered my name with the word “staff”, as a method of coping with the aforementioned dysphoria. Finally, I pointed out that since the email of the 15th threatening discipline to people who “defaced” their tags in this way, I had been wearing the tag consistently, with my birth name visible, as per the rules.

I also linked them to my facebook, linkedin, and goodreads profiles, as well as my professional development blog, *and* a post introducing me as a new volunteer at the Toronto Multicultural Calendar (dated from before my current contract even started), all under the name Kasey, as evidence that this is actually the name I use and am known by.

I got no response. After two days (i.e. this is Friday the 19th now), I simply sent a little “following up on this” message to make it clear that I was not letting the issue drop.

On Monday, I cracked a little bit and tried to negotiate. I pointed out that in my actual legal name (because they, in fact, only have on file the name I assumed when I got married), my initials are K.C., and asked that since other people go by derivative versions of their real names, could I go by that, or by “Kaycee”.

On Tuesday afternoon, I received a response (which was once again explicitly from the CEO) informing me that my last name was not in question here, and informing me that because, when I was hired, I showed two pieces of id with my birth name, that is what I would be known as at work until such time as I produced a legal name change.

Oh yeah, and also by the way “We now consider this matter to be closed.”

They wish.

Read on with part 2: The Union! Because, believe me, they had an opinion about this, too!

7 comments

  1. This seems outrageous. I experienced a small part of this at the university I taught at last year. People called me what I wanted but I coulnt get email and other communications to acknowledge chosen name. This made it difficult for student who knew me by chosen name but only saw birth name in the system. I wrote numerous letters as did you to no avail. Fortunately no name tags and for whatever reason when I got my faculty ID they had no problem using chosen name. The stuff with HR felt like it was bordering on discrimination. As does you situation. I hope the union helps.

    1. I have heard about so many people having problems with name changes at universities. I have a friend who was able to change it everywhere except their email (because the university required email handles to match legal names, weirdly?), and my husband full-out provided a legal name change at his university, and then had to provide it to at least three seperate places to cover most of his bases, and still there were spots that his birth name showed up with no apparent way of changing it (most notably, Blackboard, which meant he refused to do assignments that involved posting to Blackboard forums, and his profs had to give him a pass on it.) Like, people change at the very least their last names all the time. There should be standard procedures for this shit, and yet there apparently isn’t anything even remotely resembling it. It is the worst.

      1. Blackboard was the worst. I refused to use it. And some thing like class mass email I had to go thru blackboard. That’s where my students got confused. Frustrating and I agree what’s the big deal about first names vs last.

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