Because ’tis the season to give, The In-House Advisor would like to give in-house counsel the following reminders so as to limit their companies’ holiday exposure:
Tip 1: Religious discrimination and accommodations
As we all know, while the “holiday” season in December often refers to Christmas, there are many other religious holidays celebrated by workers, both now and throughout the year. In-house counsel may wish to take the opportunity now to advise their companies’ managers to allow, and not interfere with, an employee’s observance of religious obligations. For purposes of employment discrimination laws, the definition of “religion” is much broader than one might think and is not limited to major, organized religions. Rather, “religious beliefs” protected by discrimination laws is defined as:
Moral or ethical beliefs about right and wrong that are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.
It would behoove employers to carefully consider scheduling of work on holidays and planning and scheduling of holiday celebrations with an eye towards religious considerations. Likewise, being mindful of the religions practiced by company employees may avoid issues with respect to holiday parties. For instance, depending upon the make-up of your workforce, scheduling a party for Friday night or making alcohol consumption a primary or central point of the festivities could offend a number workers of various religions. Managers and supervisors should be reminded of their obligations to respect individual religious beliefs and focus on job performance (and not an employee’s participation in holiday festivities) in determining terms and conditions of employment.