What happens when personal values collide with company policy?

Question:

My employer just threatened to fire me for having decent values and wanting to maintain them at work.

Here’s the problem. I work for a large sports facility that serves thousands of customers, young and old. Because we receive a small amount of federal funding, we can’t discriminate against employees or customers due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. This means a man named “Lena” who dresses as a woman can use the locker room — unsupervised — which is also used by little children.

I couldn’t let that happen. After all, what if something happened to those kids on my watch? So, when I saw Lena heading for the locker room, I stopped him, and told him he needed to use a unisex bathroom in the lobby as his changing place. I tried to do this discretely, however Lena turned it into an ugly confrontation. My manager came out, apologized to Lena and told me that Lena had a right to use the locker room of her choice.

He asked me to “just let it go” in the future and that Lena’s sexual identity wasn’t my business. He said if I acted with any other customer as I had with Lena or if I got into it again with Lena, I’d be fired.

But it is my business to protect the kids in our facility. And I have a right to my values and to be able to say enough is enough. What can I do?

Answer:

You have the right to your values and what you feel and believe is your business. When you accept a paycheck, however, you agree to put your individual beliefs aside if they contradict your employer’s policies. Further, Lena’s sexual identity isn’t your business, it’s hers.

When you take away a transsexual or transgender customer’s ability to use the locker room that corresponds to her sexual identity, you invade her rights.

Think for a minute what led Lena to live life as a transgender individual, facing scorn and judgement from others. From early on, she felt she was a female stuck in a male body, and thus didn’t feel at “home.” Her decision to “come out” as a woman wasn’t a lightly made choice.

Further, transgender individuals aren’t any more likely to become sexual predators than are others. Adult women pedophiles can come into the locker room as or more easily than can Lena.

Finally, if you don’t hear what your supervisor tells you, you’re asking your employer to make a difficult choice between letting you do what you want to do or receiving federal funding, upholding their policies and respecting a customer’s rights. What can you do? You can offer Lena respect despite the fact that your and her values differ.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.

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