It’s beginning to look a lot like the holidays…
Yes, the end of December is ripe with holidays. Specifically, Chanukah, Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, and even Festivus all occur this week.
As a small business owner, I’m grateful for the many fantastic opportunities that this time of year brings.
Truly, I get a chance to say “thank you” to my clients, mentors, suppliers, and partners who helped make my business a success this year. Furthermore, I celebrate all the “wins” and “wows” of the year. Moreover, I imagine, dream, and create new challenges and plans for my business for next year. (2020 is going to be so exciting!)
The “What-Ifs” of the Holidays
As the holidays approach, it’s understandable that you may be worried about business vulnerability. Is that vague voice in your head saying “What If”:
- … my company holiday socializing results in a work-place harassment claim?
- …the business inadvertently engages in a form of religious discrimination?
- …a holiday gift is perceived as an attempt to improperly influence the recipient?
- …our business holiday activities aren’t in conformance with employment regulations?
Indeed, these worries leave you feeling confused and a bit overwhelmed. With no clear answers, the “What Ifs” remain in the background; creating an unseeable grinch on your shoulder during this holiday season.
Have A Law-ly Holiday
Let’s remove that grinch from your shoulder. Let’s allow you to focus on enjoying the opportunities the end of the year holidays bring. Let me help alleviate your stress and confusion of the “Holiday What Ifs”.
Law-ly Holiday Greetings
This time of year, it feels good to send cards, spread good wishes and cheer, and host celebrations. Indeed, with so many different holidays and beliefs, my “go-to” greeting is to wish people “all the best for the New Year.” This is general enough to cover even those who do not celebrate any particular holiday. If you know without a doubt what holiday someone celebrates, then by all means be specific with your greeting to them. One word of caution: avoid stereotypes and assumptions as both can lead to a variety of issues.
Law-ly Holiday Decorations
Have you decided not to put up a Christmas tree or Chanukah menorah this year to avoid claims of religious discrimination? If you and your employees enjoy the good feelings of holiday decorations, just be sure to include all holidays. Ask employees if there is a holiday that they would like to see included in the decorations. Rather than excluding Christmas, for example, include a Chanukah menorah and a Kwanzaa basket along with the Christmas tree. If you want to really minimize your risk: use Winter themed or New Year’s themed decorations instead.
Law-ly Holiday Time Off
Your business should have a time-off policy. Although employees are not necessarily entitled to pay for time taken off for religious holidays, as a business owner, your law-ly holiday policy should include appropriate accommodations for religious holidays under Title VII and various state regulations.
Law-ly Holiday Gifts
During the holiday season, giving a gift to others just feels so good. It’s an opportunity to say thank you, I appreciate you, and I’m glad you’re part of my business success. Proactive law-ly plans for your gift exchanging can minimize the possibility of associated legal risk. Be thoughtful with gifts among your employees, to/from your employees, and to/from other business associates.
Law-ly Holiday Employee Gift Exchanges
Your business should already have a harassment policy. This policy applies to your employees’ gifts as well. If a gift could lead to questions of the sender’s motivation, it should be avoided. Perceptions can be just as damaging, even if the actual motive was innocent. Avoid (and remind your employees to avoid) “romantic” gifts, religious gifts, and even “gag gifts.” These could put you or your business at risk of discrimination or inappropriate workplace action claims.
Law-ly Holiday Employee/Employer Gifts
So you’re the boss and you want to give your staff an end of the year gift? Be sure to give a neutral/non-holiday related gift to every employee to avoid claims of preferential treatment, discrimination, and/or workplace harassment. In lieu of gifts, “adopt a charity” for the holiday season and suggest everyone donate in the company’s name.
Law-ly Holiday Business Associates Gifts
Your business should have a gift policy relating to business partners, vendors, and customers. Depending on your business, you may also be subject to certain regulations or laws relating to gift giving and receiving. Be sure you and your employees are well-versed in both. In general, avoid gifts that may be perceived as an attempt to improperly influence business decisions in favor of the giver. A good rule of thumb is any gifts should be customary in your line of business and sent as a gesture of goodwill to build the business relationship.
Law-ly Holiday Parties
Of all holiday related activities, holiday parties are the most visible cause of claims of harassment and discrimination. Even if you were not aware of the conduct, as a business owner you can be held vicariously liable for incidents that occur at a party you host. As with other holiday activities, be thoughtful of how and where you host your holiday party to ensure a law-ly celebration.
As with all the other holiday-related activities, be inclusive with your holiday party theme. Have an “end of the year party” rather than a “holiday party”. Celebrate your business’s successes rather than the holiday season. This ensures it’s an event where all employees can feel welcome and included.
The venue of the party needs to be accessible to persons with disabilities, and welcoming regardless of age, race, gender identification, and dietary restrictions.. Ensure adherence to various employment regulations by hosting your party during working hours. Be sure to pay your employees for the time at the party. Participation should always be voluntary with no negative feedback for not participating.
Ideally, avoid serving alcohol at your company party. If you do, be sure to restrict consumption by, for example, provide one or two drink tickets to each participant. Equally important, even with restrictions, assume some people may abuse the alcohol you serve. Make sure you serve plenty of food and a variety of nonalcoholic beverages. Offer shared rides for any employee who is not capable of driving home.
As a business owner, if you see or hear unacceptable comments or conduct, you must intervene or risk legal exposure. Remind your employees before the event of your company’s harassment policy; and enforce it just as if it was in the workplace.
Are you and/or your business Florida based? If so and you need help with Your Business Policies and/or ensuring a law-ly holiday season, we’re here for you. Contact us here.
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