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Is it possible for an individual, in the US, to get a "second name" or professional alias? In short, we have a sales engineer who immigrated to the US (on a 5 year visa while we work with him to help with his citizenship). He's a very competent individual, but there's a problem: his legal name sounds like a set of obscenities in English, i.e.:

d**ksh** K**t

We cannot legally ask the individual to change his/her name, but senior management has made it clear this individual will not be allowed to introduce himself in front of large numbers of customers or at conferences with a name like that (this is a big deal for a sales engineer). We need to set him up with a company credit card, which can't be done with an alias/fake-name, and we don't want to cause issues for his citizenship approval process.

Is there any way we can suggest an alias (is there even such a thing, in the US) without opening ourselves up for a discrimination lawsuit? Again, we want this guy on our payroll, but we're not allowed to introduce someone to our customers while pronouncing an apparent slew of obscenities.

Is there some process celebrities use, for example, so they can check in to hotels under an alias? I've met some high-ranking people with alternate names on their credit cards, so it must be somehow possible.

IMPORTANT: the reason we ended up in this position is that our company has a policy where various pieces of information about candidates is hidden from most of the interviews (name, race, gender, etc.) to avoid unconscious bias.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – user44108 Oct 27 '19 at 7:35
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My failure results in the termination of the employee's contract...

So you are essentially stating that your company and employees are so immature that they cannot act as adults in a professional setting. That your employer would risk an employment discrimination lawsuit based on someone's name sounding similar to an obscenity?

Your name 'Bobby' is slang, in some parts of the world, for a sex act.

I'm not offended, didn't chuckle, or snicker at all. And most importantly I'm not so childish as to ask you to change your profile name.

  • It seems more that they worry they might have imature customers, and customer is king isnt s/he? – lalala Dec 7 '19 at 15:56
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I think the short answer is you can't suggest or propose this. It is up to the employee to decide how they would like to be addressed.

What you can do is put it to the employee honestly. Ask them if they are aware of the similarity between their name and some english profanities. If they are not, inform them of the details. Ask if they feel this is a concern or not, and if they would like to take any action based on this.

They will either propose an alternate name or pronunciation of their own, or they feel comfortable facing the minor embarrassments their name might cause.

If they choose the latter route, it is incumbent on you to go to bat for this employee up the chain, insist their value outweighs a few chuckles some might have on the side, and that dismissal over this concern is discriminatory.

Personally, from my perspective, this is sales. A unique name that won't be forgotten easily is a strong asset for this employee and your company. Nobody is cursing or being rude here, a name is a name, and it can be used advantageously.

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If you have the standing to do the right thing, you go back to the management that made this rule for you and give them what you see are the actual options.

You are asking us to open ourselves to the very legitimate claim of discrimination AND not not hire a very competent individual. Or we could realize that names are just names, and as long as we're not selling to twelve year olds, our clients are professional enough to know that it is a name, not a string of obscenities.

He should be instructed on ways to introduce himself in a way that reminds people to be professional first, perhaps by prefacing the introduction with 'My name is ...'

Your company is moving the right direction by realizing that there is the possibility of unconscious bias in their hiring. Now they need to come to terms with the fact that some of the bias is very strong, and they need to deal with that too.

If you don't have the capital to fight this, then at least let him know why he is not being kept, so that he can sue your company. Because removing the names from the resumes is apparently not adequate, and they seem to need something stronger to get the idea through to them. (However, there is danger there for you, because if the company finds out about you telling him, your job could be in danger. It's easy for an internet stranger to tell you this is a fight worth fighting, but only you know your circumstances and whether it's a fight you can afford to fight.)

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    Careful - OP, by letting candidate know set themselves why they weren't hiredt to be sued by the company; whether intentional or unintentional (slip of the tongue). Tread carefully. I originally upvoted, but removed my vote after I saw this remark. – Captain Emacs Oct 26 '19 at 3:49
  • @CaptainEmacs True, there is a danger to the OP and their job if it comes out. They need to decide whether it's better to let the company do wrong, and whether it's a fight they can fight. Not everyone can. – thursdaysgeek Oct 26 '19 at 18:08

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