Bringing a little holiday cheer into your business is usually welcomed by customers and employees alike. But if you're a business owner, it's important to remember that there are legal guidelines you must follow to maintain an environment that's free from discrimination and harassment. Aside from legal considerations, it's best practice to be respectful and inclusive of all staff and clients during the holidays. Here are some tips on how to do the holidays at work:
Wreaths, lights and yes, even Christmas trees are just fine to put up in your lobby or break room: these items are safe because they don't promote any particular religion (or at least the Supreme Court says they don't). Although displaying overtly religious decorations like nativity scenes is not necessarily against the law in the private sector, it just makes sense to stick to more neutral decor in an office setting. This doesn't apply when it comes to employees' private workspaces, however. Prohibiting employees from expressing religious beliefs in a personal space may constitute religious discrimination. And if all these decorating guidelines are giving you a headache, it's completely acceptable to ban decorations entirely, as long as the policy applies to everyone equally, preferably all year long.
In any setting, a gift exchange can be a fun and festive activity, or a wildly inappropriate and often chaotic free for all. In an office, it's important to do whatever you can to be sure your exchange is the former and not the latter. If you choose to have one, put restrictions on the type of gift (no gag or inappropriate gifts) and the amount participants can spend. Even better, simplify the whole deal by making it an ornament or cookie exchange. No matter what, always make participation in holiday activities optional.
Ah, the office holiday party. If your staff is like a family, it's a welcome chance to relax and enjoy conversation, food and non-work time with your peers. If not, the company party may just be an awkward but necessary annual tradition. Either way, follow these guidelines to ensure your office celebration is safe and respectful. First, making the event family-friendly is a great way to set the tone for a conservative get-together. If you plan to have alcohol, limit the number of drink tickets per guest and have a taxi on hand to make sure everyone gets home safely. During the event, keep a close eye on the action; remember, you may be liable if anyone is harassed or gets injured during the party. Finally, don't force employees to attend or participate.
Common sense, moderation and an attitude of inclusiveness are the keys to success when it comes to celebrating the holidays at work. Take our suggestions to ensure a fun, safe and festive holiday season on the job.
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