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Holidays and Religion in the Workplace

Religious holidays are celebrated throughout the year by all ethnicities, and as an employer, you want to make sure everyone can comfortably enjoy the festivities. The Holiday Season brings with it many diverse options and opportunities to ensure everyone in the workplace will enjoy whatever they choose (or not choose) in order to celebrate without incident.

Your first line of defense against the possibility of a misunderstanding or discrimination in the workplace is to have a company handbook that clearly outlines company policy regarding religious holidays and reasonable accommodations that may be available, but this can get tricky because it is usually something that will happen on a per-person basis and each situation will be unique. Second, you must learn what your obligations are to employees regarding religious accommodations as outlined in "Title VII" of the Civil Rights Act.

Additionally, how do you pay employees during the holidays that may have a religious conflict with them, and are you legally responsible to pay them for religious holidays? What if an employee wants to work on Christmas and wants you to provide reasonable accommodation, yet it is not your policy to pay anyone to work on Christmas? Example: The Federal Government requires employees to take time off during a Federal holiday and the employee may or may not be paid for the required time off.

Private businesses may require employees to work during a Federal or State holiday with or without pay. This is to say if a non-Christian employee wants to work on Christmas Day and be paid for it, and it is your policy to observe that holiday without pay, can you legally do this without causing other workers to feel discriminated against? If you think changing your policy at the time would be a good idea, please note: When a private sector owner or manager changes its policy regarding paid holiday leave, employees must be notified before the change is made.

It isn't always easy, and it isn't always cut-and-dry when it comes to managing a diverse workforce. Stellaris Group in Marietta, Georgia provides Human Resource Management to businesses of all sizes and has first-hand knowledge of how to handle any situation regarding fair employee treatment. If you have an employee who requests reasonable accommodation due to religion/work conflict, Stellaris Group can help guide you in the right direction when it comes to dealing with reasonable accommodation that will not cause an undue hardship on other employees or the overall business.

When you choose to reach out to Stellaris Group for HR management for your business, you can be sure that your Christmas party will be fun and fair for everyone whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus. So, go ahead and celebrate Christmas with a fully-decorated Christmas tree; Hanukkah with your best menorah, Kwanzaa with the finest kinara; and don't forget the Festivus pole.

Stellaris Group wants to wish each and every one of you Happy and Safe Holidays from our families to yours. 

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