Kris Kringle wanted to celebrate the Christmas season in style with a knock-out-the-lights “Christmas Party” complete with a turkey dinner and all the trimmings.  However, human resources manager Holly Dais insisted that the bash must be called a “Holiday Party” due to the diverse nature of the workforce. Holly implied that to call the company bash a “Christmas Party” was against the law, or at the very least, evidence of employment discrimination.  Who’s right?

Both.  Kris Kringle can call the company bash a “Christmas Party.” That alone does not provide the basis for a claim of employment discrimination against RevvedUp Retailers. On the other hand, the concern expressed by Holly Dais has merit. While calling the bash a “Christmas Party” may not, by itself, be discriminatory, Holly’s belief that it might run the risk of alienating the diverse workforce at RevvedUp is legitimate. Should a lawsuit ever be filed against RevvedUp Retailers alleging religious discrimination, the party name could be a very small piece of a number of other instances supporting a claim for employment discrimination.

Tilting the Scales Your Way Although the probability of it serving as the basis for an employment claim is remote, business owners should “pick and choose their battles carefully.”  Given the ethnic and religious composition of your workforce, does calling the annual company party a “Christmas Party,” risk alienating your employees? If so, you may want to go with the recommendation of your HR manager, and simply call the annual bash a “Holiday Party.”

For more about Christmas in schools and the workplace, please see the U.S. Supreme Court case of Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668 (1984). “The Constitution does not require complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any.”