Human resources administrators should be aware of Texas requirements and the resources available when an employee requests a change in name or gender marker.
Name and gender marker process
In Texas, a court order is needed for any individual who seeks to change a name or a gender marker. This court order is the official document used to update required documentation with employers and other official entities.
Individuals have the right to a name change for any reason if the individual is not planning to commit fraud or use the name for another illegal purpose. The petition asking the court for the name change must include identifying information and a fingerprint card. Some counties also may require a background check. For any individual who has a criminal history, additional information may be requested.
For a gender marker change, the process is more complex. In Texas, there is no statute that defines what proof is required to change a gender marker. Each individual judge can decide what documentation is required, and proof of the gender change could require multiple documents. Typically, an individual will only need an official letter from a physician that certifies the individual is receiving clinically appropriate treatment with respect to the gender identity. However, additional medical documents may be needed for proof.
Additionally, some judges may not grant a gender marker change even when proper documentation is provided to the court by the individual. The decision to allow a gender marker change resides with individual court judges, and many judges in Texas do not regularly grant gender marker changes.
Once a name or gender marker is legally changed, it must be recognized in any county throughout the entire state of Texas. The court order is the key document when individuals are seeking these two legal changes.
Updating employment documentation
After a court order is obtained for either a name change or gender marker change, individuals can begin the process of updating legal documents. The change with the court does not automatically change other documentation, so the individual must physically update all identification cards and documents (e.g., Social Security card, driver’s license, birth certificate, etc.) using the court order.
If the individual wants documentation changed with an employer, a certified copy of the court order or an updated identification card should be sufficient to update employment documents. Using the court order, the employer should update documents, as appropriate, based on new legal documentation provided by the employee.
Additionally, records in an employee’s personnel file, in addition to any other employee records, should be changed to show the employee’s new name and gender which is consistent with the Privacy Act. The employee also should be permitted to change any identity documentation such as ID badge, email account, business cards, and workplace signature—anything that relates to personal identity in the workplace.
Considerations for HR
HR administrators can inform employees that any change in legal status such as name or gender marker will require a court order. Employees can be directed to the local district clerk’s office in their county of residence to obtain information about specific requirements to change a name or gender marker. Once an employee has obtained official proof of a name or gender marker change (i.e., court order), the HR department can then assist the employee in updating personal information with the educational entity, as well as providing this information to other entities directly related to employment.
For more information, check out legal guidelines from the Texas State Law Library.
Jennifer Barton is an HR and compensation consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Jennifer an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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