Are you decorating your office this year, or allowing your employees to do so? Be careful. You wouldn't think holiday decorations would be a point of contention among people, but they have caused workplace trouble more than once in this country. Fortunately, the legal cases that have resulted from holiday decoration disputes in the workplace have resulted in some clear guidelines as to what you can and can't do. It all comes down to Constitutional freedoms of speech and religion, and how the courts have interpreted those freedoms. Here are the top three things about safely and legally decorating your office for the holidays you need to know.
1. Keeping It Secular Is Easiest
The law has never had any problems with secular holiday decorations in public or private workplaces. You can allow your employees to decorate their cubicles, office furniture, computers, and even the lobby to their hearts' content as long as the decorations aren't religious in nature.
Interestingly, the Supreme Court views things like Christmas trees, wreaths, reindeer figurines, and Santa Clause as secular. This is in spite of their usual association with Christmas, a Christian holiday. The commercialization of Christmas has moved these things from the religious sphere into the secular sphere. You can safely allow your employees to decorate with these things.
2. Incorporate the Religions of All of Your Employees
If you are going to allow religious decorations, you must permit all types of religious symbols. This means if you have employees of varying religions, you have to be inclusive of all of their faiths. For those employees who don't prescribe to a religion, they must be allowed to choose secular decorations or to elect to not decorate at all.
When it comes to allowing religious decorations, it is easiest to keep these confined to individual cubicles and offices. A Jewish employee may want to put a Menorah on their office furniture, for example. A Wiccan may choose a symbol to celebrate the solstice, and so on. As for public areas of your office, keeping the decorations secular is the safest way to go.
3. Don't Forget OSHA
Workplace safety is just as important as religious sensitivity when it comes to holiday decorating at the office. Keep OSHA regulations in mind when choosing and approving decorations.
Don't put out anything that is a tripping hazard, avoid decorations in areas with a lot of traffic, and don't cover any emergency equipment or signs with decorative items. Also, avoid decorations that could be a fire hazard, such as candles or scented wax burners.
Decorating the office for the holidays is fun for everyone. It creates a festive environment that is different from the everyday. While there are legalities you need to be aware of in decorating your office, you can still do it. If you want to break out special seasonal office furniture, visit these guys to see what your options are. Just keep the law in mind, and let the holiday fun begin!