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Is Your Holiday Party a Religious Discrimination Liability Risk?

What’s At Stake

Human rights laws ban employers from forcing employees to do something inimical to their religious beliefs. Stated simply, you can’t force employees to choose between their job and their religion. The problem is that company policies, practices, procedures or schedules that appear neutral and totally non-religious on their face might have discriminatory effects. Year-end holiday parties and celebrations are a case in point. While they may feel like a time-out from work, the company-sponsored holiday party is just an extension of the workplace as far as discrimination laws are concerned. Result: The things that happen before, during and after the party can give rise to claims for religious discrimination.

To illustrate, here’s a fictional scenario based on real-life cases of alleged religious discrimination involving the holiday party. Your assignment: Spot all the things the employer in the scenario did wrong.

SCENARIO

ABC Company holds an annual Christmas Party at ...

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