Attorney General Rokita weighs in on pronouns in the workplace

Rokita Photo provided by Indiana Capital Chronicle
By: Indiana Capital Chronicle

For The Republic

INDIANAPOLIS — In a politically charged and, at times, inflammatory Facebook event, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita waded into a recent discussion on pronouns in the workplace.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that repeatedly misgendering an employee or denying them access to a bathroom consistent with their gender identity amounts to workplace harassment.

Rokita issued a ruling of his own Wednesday, saying that “neither state nor federal law requires a coworker to use the preferred pronouns and names of fellow employees.”

But the office cautioned businesses that even if misgendering someone isn’t a recognized form of discrimination, they could still amount to a “hostile work environment claim.”

“There are no examples in case law where the (mis)use of an employee’s pronouns alone has been held to have created a hostile work environment pursuant to Title VII. However, many of these cases at least imply that repeated use of non-preferred pronouns and names could result in such an outcome, if the conduct is ‘severe or pervasive enough,’” the ruling said.

In the 20-minute Facebook live event, the latest in a series of videos from the office, Rokita denounced the move as part of “a new push by America haters to force the rest of us to embrace the radical gender ideology that they want.”

Rokita went on to describe the participation of transwomen in sports as “an invasion” and called ongoing support for gender diversity “trans-sanity.”

“Most Hoosiers agree that we all should extend love and compassion toward individuals dealing with gender dysphoria. After all, it is a problem. And it should be treated. But it doesn’t need to be affirmed, nor should it,” Rokita said. “Treating these individuals with respect, however, does not require us by law to deny basic truths like the fact that there are only two sexes and an individual is one of them.”

Hundreds of thousands of Americans are intersex, a recognized third sex among scientists. Indiana’s Civil Rights Act doesn’t include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected classes, the attorney general’s office said.

Rokita said the opinion came from a question submitted by Indiana Rep. Mike Speedy, who is running in the 6th Congressional District GOP primary.

“I don’t believe this opinion, in any way, infringes on anyone’s right to be who they think they are. What it does is it protects employers and employees from that ideology from being imposed upon them in a workplace environment. And that’s fair to everyone,” Speedy said.

Rokita said the announcement wasn’t intended to be political, though it comes on the eve of the primary next week. He said Speedy’s request came in months ago but it took time to compile the ruling.

The Indiana Democratic Party accused Rokita of using taxpayer dollars for political purposes.

“Rokita owes Hoosiers an apology for this obvious political stunt. Whether it’s attacking medical professionals like Dr. Caitlin Bernard or using his office for political games, Rokita’s tenure has been an embarrassment to Indiana. Hoosiers can replace him with a Democratic Attorney General who will respect women’s rights, and focus on protecting taxpayers,” the party said in a statement.

Rokita will likely be on the ballot in November. Party nominees for attorney general are selected through a convention process in Indiana.

— The Indiana Capital Chronicle covers state government and the state legislature. For more, visit