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Tech exec fired for listing 'Assigned By God' as his preferred pronouns sues former employer: Report

Anastasiia Yanishevska/Getty Images

A software engineering executive in Florida who was fired for listing faith-based preferred pronouns has now filed a lawsuit against his former employer, the Epoch Times reports.

Until recently, Chad Scharf had been working as the vice president of software engineering at the Jacksonville, Florida, location of Bitwarden, a cybersecurity firm based in California. Sometime during his employment, Bitwarden leaders determined that all employees should include their preferred pronouns in their personal profiles on Slack, an online messaging platform, as part of the company's "inclusivity initiative."

Scharf initially declined to list any preferred pronouns because the gender ideology undergirding the notion of preferred pronouns violates his religious beliefs. As a Catholic, Scharf believes that there are only two genders and that a person's gender "cannot be changed, chosen, or manipulated."

However, Scharf's unwillingness to participate perturbed his superiors at Bitwarden, who then "repeatedly pressured" him to list his pronouns, the Epoch Times claimed. Eventually, Scharf acquiesced in a way that he thought might satisfy their demands without compromising his religious principles: He listed his preferred pronouns as "Assigned By God."

Though his new "pronouns" might have complied with company policy, those same pronouns reportedly offended two employees in the Bitwarden human resources department. According to the Epoch Times, those unnamed employees "felt harassed by Scharf’s religious statements."

Company leaders then demanded that Scharf remove "Assigned By God" from his employee profile page. The Bitwarden CEO even warned Scharf that, according to three attorneys whom the CEO had consulted, he was "legally entitled" to fire Scharf for refusing to participate in the pronoun policy. The CEO or someone of similar rank in the company evidently followed through on the warning, and Scharf was eventually fired. How long Scharf had been with Bitwarden and when he was fired are both unclear.

Scharf has since hired attorney Jennifer Vasquez and filed a lawsuit against Bitwarden, claiming that the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which, among other things, prohibits religious-based discrimination. "Bitwarden violated Title VII when it placed Mr. Scharf into a disfavored class by promoting its gender ideology, when it failed to approve his reasonable request for accommodation, and when it terminated his employment," the lawsuit stated.

"Had Chad set aside his religious beliefs and acquiesced to Bitwarden’s promotion of gender ideology, he would not have been fired, which means his religious beliefs were the cause of his termination," explained Vazquez, who has successfully argued other religious discrimination cases in the past.

Vazquez believes that companies like Bitwarden have sacrificed the religious liberties of their employees to enhance their ESG score. "We have a real growing hate against Christians now," she said. "I feel like, for some reason, companies don’t think they have rights because of the spirit of the time."

Despite Vazquez's apparent passion for the cause, she may have an uphill climb in Scharf's case. She had already filed a discrimination complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations on Scharf's behalf, but the commission ruled in favor of Bitwarden. Vazquez has already filed an appeal of that decision.

Bitwarden has also alleged that Scharf was reprimanded for failing to use the preferred pronouns of a job applicant whose so-called gender identity did not align with the applicant's biological sex. Scharf countered that he avoided using pronouns entirely during the interview process and used the person's biologically based pronouns only in internal documents.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida on May 25, but Bitwarden has not yet responded to it. The company also did not respond to several requests for comment from the Epoch Times.

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