Because of the midweek nature of Christmas and New Years this year, many folks will have a longer than usual time off.
Winter holidays give your company an opportunity to host celebratory parties and have fun. You could be liable, though, if you celebrate the holidays in a way that discriminates against employees. Be sure your holiday festivities celebrate diversity and avoid religious discrimination.
Granting Holidays Off
According to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Right Act, you cannot discriminate against your employees based on religion. Also, you must accommodate “sincerely held religious practices” unless doing so would cause undue hardship for you. These guidelines prevent you from firing employees whose religious practices require a Sabbath day of rest. However, you are not required to give an employee the entire week of Diwali, Christmas or Hanukkah off if doing so would:
- Be costly.
- Decrease efficiency.
- Burden other employees.
- Threaten safety.
- Violate employee rights.
As a company, you can accommodate all your employees during the holidays in several ways. These actions ensure your company remains compliant with the law and respectful of your employees.
- Include floating holidays in the benefits package.
- Allow employees to take a vacation, sick, personal, or unpaid day off for holiday celebrations.
- Let employees work a different schedule or swap shifts to accommodate their holiday observance.
Decorating the Office
Office decor can improve your employee’s morale. Religious or symbolic decorations like lanterns or crosses may offend employees of different religions, though.
Support diversity and inclusion as you decorate. Choose generic items like snowflakes rather than religious objects. You can also give your employees permission to decorate their personal space. In this case, stipulate that the decor items must be minimal and cannot interfere with navigation around the office. For example, a six-inch Christmas tree on a desk is acceptable, and but a six-foot tree in a cubicle or walkway would be inappropriate.
Hosting Holiday Parties
A holiday party gives your company the chance to unwind and relax while building rapport. You must remain sensitive to your employees’ religious beliefs as you plan and enjoy the party, though.
Comply with the law, avoid discrimination and show sensitivity to employees when you:
- Include members of different religions on the party planning committee.
- Make parties non denominational.
- Schedule the party for a date and time that will not interfere with religious observances.
- Include elements of all religious seasonal holidays.
- Give employees the choice to attend the party.
- Avoid serving alcohol, which is forbidden in certain religions.
- Adopt a charity as a company or match charitable donations rather than host a holiday party.
As a company, you can celebrate the holiday season and embrace and celebrate diversity in a way that avoids religious discrimination. Start with these tips. For more information, talk with your corporate attorney, HR professional or business liability insurance agent.
Holiday decorations around the office are fun and festive, but they do pose safety hazards and can cause injuries. Whether your employees decorate the office for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or New Years, insist on numerous safety precautions.
Avoid Trips and Falls
Place trees, gifts or displays in areas that are out of the way. If these items sit in a hallway or other busy area, employees could trip or fall over them.
Climb a Ladder
When hanging garland, snowflakes or streamers from the wall, windows or ceiling, use a ladder or step stool instead of a chair or desk. The right support helps you reach high places without pulling a muscle or falling.
Use Nonflammable Materials
All the holiday decor you use should be labeled as nonflammable or noncombustible. Check the label, too, to verify that your decorative drapes, lights and artificial greener are made of fire retardant material and safe for your employees.
Don’t Block Signs or Exits
Seasonal banners and other decor items may fit perfectly over signs or doors, but never cover signs or exit doors. Remember to keep fire equipment and sprinklers free from decorations, too.
Stay Away from Heat Sources
Always check the surroundings before you place decorations around the office. Items should sit away from vents, space heaters and other heat sources.
Attach Tall Items Securely
Tall trees and other display items are top heavy and may topple over if they’re bumped or even randomly. Secure tall decor items to the wall or ceiling with guy-wire.
Select Cool Burning Bulbs
Safety tested and cool burning bulbs in light strings or lamps are less likely to cause burns or fires. Check the label to ensure the bulbs are tested by an independent lab and verified to be safe.
Holiday lights add a festive look to your office, but always inspect lights before you plug them in. Toss strands with frayed or bare wires, broken or cracked sockets, or loose connections.
Take Care with Extension Cords
Extension cords are convenient but potentially hazardous accessories. Only plug in the recommended number of light string sets. Also, avoid tacking or stapling cords to the wall or floor, and tape or cover cords that cross the floor on walkways.
An open flame is a big burn and fire hazard. Only allow electric lights and ban candles for safety.
Turn off Lights
At the end of the day or whenever the office is closed, switch off all the lights. You’ll save money and reduce a fire hazard.
The holidays can be more festive when you decorate the office. Use these safety tips to reduce injuries and keep your employees safe.
The holidays are almost upon us and alcohol will be flowing at company parties throughout the land. Beware! If an employee or guest gets inebriated at a social function sponsored by your business and then injures another person, you could be held liable.
Consider this scenario: After polishing off four eggnogs in an hour at the company’s Christmas party, one of your workers toddles off to his car. The employee almost makes it home when he runs a red light and T-bones a car. The car is damaged and injures the driver. The driver then sues your business for negligence in allowing the employee to drive home although he was clearly “under the influence” at the company party.
What’s more, under state and local “social host” laws, your business might face a fine or even imprisonment for continuing to serve alcohol to an adult who is legally drunk.
Under your comprehensive general liability policy is a clause for host liquor liability. The insurance company will pick up the tab for property damage and bodily injuries, up to “each occurrence” or “general aggregate” limits for the CGL. This coverage will also pay for court costs, legal fees, and other expenses – and these payments will not apply to the limits.
Be sure not to confuse host liquor liability insurance with Liquor Liability coverage, which protects businesses that manufacture, serve, or sell alcoholic beverages (such as liquor stores, bars, and taverns) against claims for injuries caused by intoxicated customers. If you’re in one of these businesses, you’ll need both types of policy.
To learn more, feel free to get in touch with our agency at any time.