Toni Jaramilla, A Professional Law Corporation - Los Angeles Employment Attorney Toni Jaramilla, A Professional Law Corporation - Los Angeles Employment Attorney
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Religious discrimination during the holiday season

Every winter holiday season for several years has erupted into a cultural war between advocates of "Merry Christmas" and those who back "Happy Holidays," instead. The reality, however, is that the winter months have major holidays in them for many of the world's religions -- and you shouldn't have to face religious discrimination at work if you don't happen to share the same faith as your employers or co-workers.

What amounts to religious discrimination during the holidays? Here are some potential examples:

1. Your employer plays favorites when it comes to decorations.

Lots of people love to decorate their work space during the holidays. But, if your co-worker can put up a Nativity scene, you have every right to put up decorations for the Winter Solstice if you're Pagan or Bodhi day if you're Buddhist.

Your employer basically has to allow symbols of all faiths or none when it comes to holiday decorations -- even if some of your co-workers may resent it.

2. Having a Christmas party instead of a holiday party.

Holiday parties are fine, but employers need to make an effort to make them inclusive for everyone.

The office atheist, for example, may still enjoy a glass of eggnog and appreciate holiday lights, but might not feel the same way about signs all over the break room asserting that "Jesus is the reason for the season."

3. Not accommodating everyone's religious holidays.

You may be perfectly happy to work Christmas Eve so that your co-workers can go home early -- but you should also have the right to take another day off in order to attend your temple with your family during Hannukkah.

Keep in mind that your employer isn't allowed to arbitrarily decide what is a "real" holiday -- worthy of time off -- and what isn't based on his or her personal beliefs.

What counts as a "reasonable" religious accommodation may vary from job to job and situation to situation -- but you probably have a keen sense of when your boss is being discriminatory against your religion. You may have legal options you can pursue to set things straight.


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