For those that keep up with the diversity news in the business world, you very well may have heard of the HR and Transgender client’s rights situation that Macy’s found themselves having to publicly respond to recently.

@Macy’s Response:

“We do not comment on personnel matters. At Macy’s we recognize and appreciate the diversity of our customers and associates.”

A bit of fence riding for me, but their swift reaction to both the issue at hand and to the media certainly speaks clearly that they have diversity on the table, and that this in no way caught them off guard.

A 27 year old former employee has filed a religious discrimination civil rights lawsuit against Macy’s after having been terminated from a Texas location. Using the other side of the faith sword that she swings, she prohibited a transgender client from utilizing the women’s fitting room, claiming that her religion instructs her to not believe in the existence of transgendered people. I wish I was making that part up.

Macy’s has very specific LGBT customer care policies in place that allow for transgendered clients to utilize the dressing rooms that they deem as the most appropriate to their identity. Texas is one of 29 states where a business can legally deny services to a member of the LGBT community. So with Macy’s already being a change agent and having this policy integrated into their organizational mandates, it’s quite clear they have a very specific stance when it comes to protecting the rights of their LGBT clientele, and even more specifically the transgendered community.

The employee violated Macy’s public, organizational policy; therefore she was let go.

Religious Discrimination in the workplace is a very real thing. According to the  Huffington Post, workplace religious discrimination complaints doubled over the last ten years.  When we falsely claim vulnerability however, like the boy who cried wolf, it dulls the response when it’s sincerely needed.

The Huffington Post has offered several articles on the event, but Religious Discrimination: Right To or Protection From?” by Erica Keppler truly hit the nail on the head for me.

Belief is a personal matter. Faith is a personal matter. We each have our own space that operates within a larger space. Much like a Matryoshka doll, we must learn to maintain our own space, underneath the umbrella of the organizations space.

I am also reminded of a line from one of my favourite films, “Dirty Dancing”:

This is my dance space; this is your dance space. Let’s Cha Cha! Spaghetti arms!”

When we are at work, we must learn to “Cha Cha” with others appropriately. Figure out how you can best represent your beliefs and feel respected, while maintaining a dignified, defined experience for the clientele you are employed to serve.

I’m a big fan of finding the balance between following the rules and challenging them. We must follow the rules to operate in a sane and functional fashion. However, very often innovation can also stem from stepping out of the bounds.

When we are faced with a rule that leaves us feeling as if a personal belief is being compromised, most of us tend to adhere to a “fight or flight” reaction. This sense of justified defiance can cause an adrenaline-fuelled reaction that only serves to create chaos and often irreparable damage, emotionally and financially for both the employee and employer.

Sometimes rules aren’t well thought out, or they don’t exist where they should. Other times, it’s just a personal gut feeling when it comes to disagreeing with a rule.

Whether we are breakers or followers, we must understand what the rules are before we engage. That applies to any number of situations including communicating, new jobs, as well as new relationships. Even if we feel the rule must be broken, there is always an appropriate route to take action.

Any good leadership team has the task of circumventing an issue before it even becomes a possibility to cause any sort of loss of revenue to an organization. Valuable resources are spent to create diversity-driven initiatives and to establish protocol when it comes to representing an organization legally as well as publicly. Macy’s is one of those organizations.

As an employee, when faced with a potentially sensitive issue, don’t just react. Assess. If you are confused on how you should respond, immediately contact a manager. No one can be expected to have a full scope of your beliefs. If you feel your religious duty outweighs your organization’s duty when it comes to dealing with specific clients, be sure you have clearly defined those parameters before starting the job. If you don’t, an organization is within its right to let you go or to not hire you at all.

When applying for a new job: read the policy hand book before signing on the dotted line. If it’s not offered to you, ask for one.  You have a right to know what is expected of you as a member of any organization and by doing so at the outset; it will help thwart situations like these before they even happen.

It’s up the employer to clearly define what is expected of an employee. It’s up to the employee to understand exactly what it is they’re signing on to do. It’s a symbiotic relationship designed to benefit both parties.

More importantly, I highly recommend any business, large or small, to take Macy’s lead. Create HR policies. Decide where you and your organization stand, specifically when it comes to diversity-related issues. If you don’t know where to begin, you can contact us here at Global Learning. We will do our very best to assist you. And if we can’t help you, we will point in the right direction.

“Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory.
– Miguel de Cervantes


about the author - Elaine


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