Daily Court Reporter - News Diversity another challenge for company holiday galas
Diversity another challenge for company holiday galas
BRANDON KLEIN, Daily Reporter Staff Writer
Small and large businesses have often need to navigate with caution when organizing their own corporate holiday parties.
While the sexual harassment issue has become a primary focus when such occasions come to mind, businesses may also need to consider the diverse makeup of its workforce.
"Holiday-time diversity used to mean just adding a Hanukkah menorah to the decorations," Michael Hyter, a Boston diversity consultant, told Monster.com. "Employers must be sensitive to the religious beliefs of their employees and create more flexible celebrations to include all of them."
But Doug Kauffman, an employment attorney in Alabama, said on the Society for Human Resources Management blog that holiday parties are fine to have.
"You have to be careful not to water down the season just to be politically correct or sensitive to those who don't celebrate," he said.
North Carolina attorney Robin Shea said on the blog it helps if businesses understand how diverse their workforce is.
"You don't want to pry into the religious beliefs of your employees," she said. "But you might generally know, this is a predominantly Christian workplace with some Jews, or most employees are non-practicing for their religion, with some atheists."
The SHRM report recommended that businesses should be careful about what decorations they have should have in the workplace (a Christmas tree may be secular enough versus a manger), the timing of such celebrations, special diets and to make such activities voluntary rather than mandatory.
On the other hand, businesses shouldn't get bogged down in the details such as whether it's OK to wish people a "Merry Christmas" versus a "Happy Holidays," Elizabeth Woodard writes for the Employee Communications Council.
But she did say it’s helpful to have decorations from a variety of religions for a diverse workforce or keep it secular. More importantly is to make sure parties accommodate what people can eat.
"Different religions have different dietary needs," Woodard said. "Some religions believe that all life is sacred and might be vegan, some who practice Judaism keep kosher, Islam forbids eating pork, the list goes on."
She added that employers can ask employees to bring their own dishes to make it a pot luck celebration.
On the other hand, Sondra Thiedeerman, a diversity consultant, stated in a Monster.com report that employers should strive for neutrality as much as possible. She recommended companies allow employees to bring families because the concept transcends different backgrounds and helps with logistical issues such as childcare.
"Focus more on what we share and less on where we differ," she said.
Date Published: December 19, 2018