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'Merry Christmas!' I Mean ‘Happy Holidays!’ Oh, Just Have A Nice Day
By: Charles Watson

Q: Every year, the holiday season seems to get more stressful. On the one hand, I have a couple of employees who want to make everything about Christ. They insist on wishing everyone, including our customers, a merry Christmas rather than happy holidays or not saying anything.

They claim that saying “happy holidays” denies their faith by taking “Christ” out of Christmas. I have no reason to disbelieve their conviction, but they seem to overdo it, making it more like a political battleground than a joyous celebration.

On the other hand, I have employees who want there to be no mention of Christ. At our traditional end-of-the-year employee holiday party, the staff sings songs they've selected. They sing winter songs like “Let It Snow,” and religious songs like “Away in a Manger.” A couple of employees have complained that some of the religious songs are offensive because they do not believe in Jesus Christ. They want me to ban the mention of Christ in the workplace. How do I keep everyone happy? Any words of wisdom?

A: Our society has changed quite a bit over the last 30 years. People have become more vocal about whether the holiday season surrounding December 25, traditionally known as Christmas, is a religious or secular observance. In this country, it is both. Some people view the holiday season as a time to commemorate the birth of Christ, with varying levels of enthusiasm. Others celebrate Hanukkah, and in some years, it is also the time of Ramadan. Some      Continue Reading...
Supreme Court Decides Abercrombie Case
By: Charles Watson

Ms. Elauf had applied for a position in the Abercrombie store in Tulsa, Oklahoma and was interviewed by the assistant store manager there while wearing a headscarf. The assistant store manager used the company’s system for evaluating employees and determined that she was qualified to be hired. Ms. Elauf never said that she wore the headscarf for any particular reason. The assistant manager was concerned, however, because she knew that wearing the headscarf conflicted with the company’s Look Policy. So, the assistant manager sought guidance from her store manager, and then ultimately from the district manager, who confirmed that wearing the headscarf violated the Look Policy, as would any headwear, “religious or otherwise.” Critically, the assistant manager told the district manager that she believed Ms. Elauf wore the headscarf for religious purposes. Ms. Elauf was not hired.

 The EEOC brought this claim on behalf of Ms. Elauf in federal court in Oklahoma. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the employee, and after a trial on damages awarded her $20,000. The Tenth Circuit, which includes the federal district court in Kansas, reversed the Oklahoma district court ruling and awarded Abercrombie summary judgment. The Tenth Circuit found that an employer is not liable under Title VII for failing to accommodate a religious practice unless and until the applicant makes a request --- and provides the employer with actual knowledge of – their need for an accommodation. The matter was appealed to the Supreme Court, which reversed and remanded the Tenth Circuit      Continue Reading...

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Don Berner, the Labor Law, OSHA, & Immigration Law Guy
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