While the holidays can be a joyous time full of potential for fun festivities in the workplace, it can be an equally stressful time for HR offices. With a variety of holidays celebrated during the month of December – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, winter solstice – it’s hard to be equally representative of all. Here are some tips for dealing with religion in the workplace during the holiday season.
- Keep a level playing field. If one employee puts a Christmas tree up at their desk, that is all fine and dandy as long as another employee is allowed to put up a menorah. If you decide to go the other route and not allow any office decorations, you’ll have to maintain the same rule year-round, such as for Easter and Valentine’s Day.
- Office décor should be even-handed or neutral. If you have a privately owned practice, you can display religious holiday decorations; however, if an employee complains, you must be willing to display other holiday decorations, as well. For public employers, no religious decorations are permitted; neutral themed winter décor is acceptable.
- Be aware of time off requests. The holidays are prime vacation time as people travel to see their families. Others may have certain religious events that they participate in on certain days. When you can, you should allow employees to take time off as long as it doesn’t create hardship for others in the office. Some employers handle time off requests by having employees swap which holidays they take off; in other words, one employee may work Thanksgiving but take Christmas Eve off while another employee works the opposite schedule.
- Observe federal holidays to keep things fair. The safest thing you can do when it comes to closing the office or giving time off is to observe federal holidays.