The Chicago Employment Law Blog

Office Holiday Decorations: 5 Legally Merry Tips

When it comes to office holiday decorations, why shouldn't you be able to celebrate the holidays at work? Before you begin decking the halls of your office, keep in mind that there may be some legal points to consider.

Here are five legally merry tips when it comes to your office holiday decorations:

  1. Be familiar with the laws. Before you start hanging up all that mistletoe, make sure that you're familiar with the relevant laws. Remember, the laws governing private businesses, when it comes to holiday decorations in the workplace, are actually very different from those that apply to government entities. Title VII prevents private businesses from discriminating on the basis of religion, and this law should guide your policy regarding any religious decor. Don't forget, if you have any questions, contact an attorney.
  2. Private businesses have more leeway. As mentioned, the laws governing private businesses versus government establishments are different -- private businesses actually have far more leeway when it comes to their holiday decor. The Establishment Clause, on the other hand, prohibits the government from endorsing a particular religion, which means that when it comes to holiday decorations at a government office, your team should stick to more secular decorations. Poinsettias, anyone?
  3. Want a Christmas tree? No problem. If you are a small private business owner in Illinois who's wary of putting up a Christmas tree -- fret not. There's no federal law prohibiting the display of a Christmas tree during the holidays.
  4. Always be as inclusive as possible. Just because Christmas trees are allowed doesn't mean that Kwanzaa wreaths and Hanukkah menorahs aren't. Here's a general rule of thumb to go by: always be as inclusive as possible. You don't want to run the risk of not being accommodating or appearing discriminatory.
  5. Banning holiday decor is allowed. As Grinch-like as it may seem, you can ban all holiday decor if you'd like. Private employers are allowed to ban all holiday decorations -- religious or not. To make it more legally enforceable though, make sure the ban is year-round and applies to all decorations, not just religious ones.

Remember, there's no reason to put the holidays on pause just because you're at work. As long as you're careful and informed, your office can be as festive as you want it to be. Happy holidays!

Related Resources: