By Alison Green / Ask a Manager
September 30, 2015
Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: Is it legal for my new company to make me change my name? I am starting a new job next week. Somehow another employee, who is a favorite of the regional manager, objects to my name, so I have been told I cannot use it.

My middle name is King and it is a name that has been in our family for years. I have been called King since the day I was born – 54 years ago – and have never had anyone even mention it, much less object to it.

This entry-level employee says it offends her religious beliefs. She has been at the company for several years but is still at entry-level, so how can she carry so much weight? What are my options? Is this even legal?

A: That’s ridiculous. It’s your name.

Legally, they can probably insist you use another name (at least I can’t think of a law it would violate), but it would be 100% crazy for them to do that. It’s your name. No reasonable person or employer would ask you to change your name, especially on grounds like these.

I would say this to your new employer: “I certainly don’t want to offend anyone, but this is my name, it’s what I’ve gone by my entire life, it’s how all my professional contacts know me, and it’s what’s on my birth certificate. It’s not possible for me to change it.”

If they push back, I’d continue to say, “It’s really not possible for me to change my name.”

I’m hoping that they just haven’t thought this through and realized how ridiculous this is (and maybe they somehow think it’s more optional because it’s your middle name rather than your first?). Hopefully, politely but firmly saying that it’s not something you can do will make them realize it’s not a reasonable request.

But if they insist on it, well, you’re learning that you’re about to start working for an employer that’s incredibly unreasonable and willing to insist on something outrageous just because someone cried “religion” inappropriately.* It might be better to know that now than before you actually start work.

* And it is inappropriate. Religious accommodations don’t extend to changing other employees’ names. That has nothing to do with what level of seniority someone has, so it doesn’t matter that she’s entry-level; if she was requesting a reasonable religious accommodation, they’d need to grant it whether she was the COO or the receptionist. But this one is unreasonable, and it would be just as unreasonable coming from the head of the company as it is coming from this person.

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Q: Should my resume include a job I quit after a month? I’m an ER nurse. I started at a new job just a few weeks ago. I haven’t yet completed my probation period, but I don’t think I can in good conscience work at this hospital any longer, because I’ve observed some really serious safety problems. (A full explanation would be long and technical. The short explanation is that they don’t have the right equipment or the right policies to provide safe patient care, and management encourages staff to take unsafe shortcuts and “find workarounds” instead of enforcing good practices.) I don’t think my input could significantly change the ingrained systemic problems, so I’ve resolved to quit and find something else.

My concern is about whether to keep this short-lived job on my resume. My impulse is to leave it off, because it could look bad that I bailed out from a job so quickly, and because anything I did there wouldn’t mean much in terms of experience gained. But on the other hand, would it be considered dishonest not to mention it?

A: Nope, it’s fine to leave it off (and in general, you should leave off jobs that you left after only few months, unless they were specifically designed to be short-term jobs from the start). A resume is a marketing document; it’s not required or expected to be a comprehensive listing of everything you’ve ever done. It’s not dishonest or even unusual to leave something off your resume that you don’t want to highlight.

These questions are adapted from ones that originally appeared on Ask a Manager. Some have been edited for length.

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