The holiday season brings plenty of good times, but it can also bring along plenty of potential problems for employers and their employees. Especially when employers fail to respect their employees’ time and beliefs.

To quote the EEOC and their definition of religious discrimination: “Religious discrimination involves treating a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. The law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.

Here are a few issues to be cautious about:

  1. Employers should not require employees to say, “Merry Christmas” in the workplace.

Requiring people who do not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday to praise the date creates religious discrimination problems for employees who do not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. Under Title VII and the Texas Labor Code an employer cannot require participation in religious practices as a condition of employment.

On the flip-side, employers cannot stop employees from reasonable expressions of the employee’s faith within the workplace, so “Merry Christmas” is allowed.

  1. Don’t prohibit other reasonable expressions of a religious holiday

Employers are limited in excluding other expressions of religious faith including items in your workspace, your clothing, or what you say. Limiting these expressions if they are business related and evenly applied to all employees is reasonable and acceptable.

  1. Don’t force employees to participate in holiday festivities

Forcing employees to participate in holiday festivities or letting those employees be harassed for not participating can create problems among the workforce. Harassment suffered for declining to participate may create a hostile work environment under Title VII and the Texas Labor Code.

  1. Requiring employees to attend company events without complying with wage laws.

When the employer mandates participation or attendance at a company event, the employer must comply with wage laws. Hourly, non-exempt employees must receive at least minimum wage for each hour of mandatory attendance. Overtime pay if time exceeds forty hours.

So, I’ve mentioned just a few things to think about while the holiday season is upon us.  Visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website for more information.