McNamee Hosea News & Press


Keeping Your Office Parties and Decorations Holiday-Neutral

We are now right in the middle of the holiday season. It tends to be a great time of year no matter what your religious beliefs (or lack of beliefs) may be. But it can also be a dicey time of year as far as company parties and workplace etiquette are concerned.

Many employers in Maryland and around the country like to decorate the office and reward their employees with a holiday party. In order to avoid offending anyone or risking claims of religious discrimination, it’s important to be sensitive to the fact that it truly is the “holiday season,” and not all employees necessarily celebrate the same ones.

Obviously, the most prominent religion in the United States is Christianity. But because Christmas has become a national, largely secular and commercialized holiday, many Americans tend to celebrate it even if they don’t consider themselves to be Christian or even religious.

Because of this, most employees will likely assume that a holiday party is a Christmas party. This doesn’t have to be the case, however. You can reduce the risk of alienating certain employees by being careful to use the term “holidays” rather than Christmas, and by putting up secular decorations rather than ones with obvious religious significance.

If your employees want to decorate their desks and/or cubicles for the holidays, it’s important to hold all employees to the same standards and rules in order to avoid the impression of disparate treatment. Religious decorations are probably fine as long as employees of any faith are allowed and/or encouraged to display the decorations that are meaningful to them. At the same time, you can remind your employees to be respectful of the fact that their co-workers might not share their beliefs and practices.

Chances are good that you won’t encounter serious legal issues related to religious discrimination over the holidays. Nonetheless, the way in which religion is treated at the office can have a big impact (positive or negative) on employee morale. As such, mindfulness and mutual respect are good rules of thumb.