Battle Claws: Santa vs. the Establishment


Santa Claus.

Some of us dress like him. Many of us sit on him. Almost all of us have seen him.

He’s BIG.

He also evokes a range of emotions in our diverse culture. Some people fondly recall memories of family holiday celebrations. Others find religious meaning. For some, Santa Claus represents exclusion. They may not be excluded intentionally. It just works out that way. It’s a numbers thing.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers (with 15 or more employees) to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of employees.

This includes (1) reasonably accommodating work-religion conflicts, such as Sunday off, Saturday off, head wear, and grooming; and (2) allowing employees to opt out of an employer’s religious ceremony.

This parallels two important elements of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the government from:

  1. Impeding the free exercise of religion
  2. Respecting the establishment of a religion.
Concept Government Workplace
Free Exercise Allow personal choice in religion Allow personal choice in religion
Establishment Do not create a church Do not create a church

The ‘establishment’ clause, in the workplace, simply means that mandatory company functions should not be religious. Conversely, religious functions should not be mandatory.

Can requiring employee participation in holiday celebrations violate Title VII? Does Santa Claus violate the Establishment clause?

As with most situations, there are ways to work within the law to cultivate the company culture you are trying to build. Be careful when it comes to religion.

Call Cardinal with questions 1.800.342.4742

Mike Freeman

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