855 461 8808

eqHR Business Tips: Are Your Holiday Policies Offensive?

Posted on November 30, 2015

How to Try and Not Offend Anyone This Holiday Season

Wonder what happened to the “good old days”? With the lighting speed of social media peoples views and opinions change.

Starbucks is catching some flak recently in social media because their holiday cups for 2015 are plain red, without any Christmas related imagery, holiday decoration or seasonal message. Some Christians are offended and have started a hashtag campaign: #merrychristmasstarbucks.

In protest, some customers are giving “Merry Christmas” as the call name for their drink so that the holiday greeting will be written on their cup, and the barista will have to say “Merry Christmas” when their drink is ready.

This story got me thinking, how does an HR professional survive the holidays without offending some or all employees?

Religious beliefs are widely protected by both state and federal discrimination laws. HR professionals should remember that this also includes an employee’s wish not to be religious. Cal-Chamber recommends that employers keep their seasonal decorations religion-neutral.

Depending on the culture at your company, this may or may not be practical. If your company has a tradition of decorating their lobby every year with a large Christmas tree, you might want to consider including some Hanukkah or Kwanza decorations as well.

If you allow employees to deck their cubicle walls with boughs of holly, then you must also allow decorations reflecting other religious beliefs. Conversely, if you allow employees to decorate their cubicles year round but forbid decorations during the holiday season, this could be viewed as discrimination, so be careful.

Think about it too, if your company has an annual gift exchange, maybe don’t call it “Secret Santa,” but come up with some other neutral name. Don’t force employees to participate in any of the holiday festivities your company has planned, try to keep them as universal and optional as possible.

If you thought the only offensive thing during the holidays was how many pumpkin flavored products are for sale right now, then you may be in for a surprise. As the Starbucks situation shows, sometimes even trying to be as neutral and inclusive as possible offends some people, proving the old adage that “you can’t please all the people all the time.” 

As HR professionals, sometimes the best we can do is just make sure we are treating everyone fairly and consistently, and most importantly, legally.

Call us today if you need to assitance or require guidance for your employment policies / procedures .This article was written by Lauren Sims, an eqHR Solutions Principal Consultant and may be contacted by calling eqHR Solutions.