Legal

A Festivus for the Rest of Us (at Work)

By Jon Hyman

Dec. 12, 2013

Yesterday, Evil Skippy at Work answered a reader’s question about whether an employer can prevent its employees from celebrating Festivus in the workplace.

“What is Festivus,” you ask? “I’ve never heard of it.” Watch this short, five-minute instructional video, and then let’s talk.

As you can see, Festivus, is not a religious holiday. It’s a parody, celebrated on December 23 as a non-commercialized alternative to the holiday season. According to Wikipedia, it started as a family tradition of Seinfeld writer Dan O’Keefe, who brought it into our collective consciousness by incorporating it into a 1997 episode of the show.

Which brings us back to the original question—can an employer ban Festivus at work? Because it’s a secular holiday, Title VII’s religious accommodation requirements do not apply. Unless, of course, it is an expression of an employee’s atheism, which is a “religion” Title VII protects and for which an employer must make a reasonable accommodation.

So, if the employee requesting a workplace Festivus Pole is doing so as an expression of his or her sincerely held atheism, then you should think long and hard before you deny the request. If, however, there is no religion supporting the request, then no law would prohibit you from banning Festivus at your company. Then again, why would you want to in the first place?

Regardless, if you are lucky enough to work for a company that embraces this holiday, consider it a Festivus Miracle.

Written by Jon Hyman, a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. For more information, contact Hyman at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com. You can also follow Hyman on Twitter at @jonhyman.

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at JHyman@Wickenslaw.com.

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