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Forced to wear Christmas attire or lose job, Arizona

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  • Forced to wear Christmas attire or lose job, Arizona

    Hi, My wife took a job as a server last year in Az. The company forces the employees to wear certain things during certain times of year. (Football Jerseys during football season, babsket ball jerseys etc) Christmas time came around, and she was told by her manager that she needed to purchas Christmas attire. She asked the manager " What if we don't celebrate Christmas?" The manager then told her " Then you need to find a job at a place where they don't celebrate Christmas". It just seems a little ridiculous in my opinion to force employees to wear a uniform that recognizes a religous holiday. Ultimately my question is if this is legal. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  • #2
    What kind of 'Christmas attire'? Most of what people celebrate as Christmas is actually pagan, not Christian. Santa, reindeer, X-mas trees, decorations, all have pagan origins celebrating the winter solstice.
    I am not an attorney, and don't play one on TV. Any information given is a description only and should be verified by your attorney.


    • #3
      Also, is it really worth possibly losing her job over by not complying?
      Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

      Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.


      • #4
        Your wife works for a company that requires employees to occasionally wear costumes. What if she isn't a football or basketball fan? If Michael Jordan walked into my living room, I doubt if I'd recognize him but that doesn't give me any basis to object to wearing a basketball jersey. The request for Christmas attire is the same. Your wife isn't being forced to observe a Christian holiday just by wearing something seasonal. Wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Santa Clause and some reindeer has absolutely nothing to due with the religious observation of Christmas. You won't see any pictures of Santa inside any Christian church.

        If your wife wants to keep her job, she'll shelve her objections which are completely off-base.


        • #5
          Agreed with all the above. Past that, there are some really offensive R-rated servers outfits which have been found legal. Not to mention really stupid outfits, like rubber chicken suits.

          There is a very teeny tiny chance of a religious exception. But this is very far from automatic. What little case law in this area is called very tightly. There is every likelihood that a termination for failing to comply with this order would be legal.
          "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
          Philip K. **** (1928-1982)


          • #6
            Since the season is over, what did she wear for a "costume"? Did she keep her job?


            • #7
              Considering that many religous people say that Christmas is no longer about observing a religious could be hard to say that itss merely a religious issue. I agree with snowmen, reindeer etc.

              My company does something similar. I found a very nice blouse with a sprig of holly embroidered on it. Thats my "Christmas" outfit.
              I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.
              Thomas Jefferson


              • #8

                She complied with the request and kept her job. She does not work at a place that requires her to wear costumes. She works at an establishment that only serves breakfast. I appreciate most of the responses. Beth, the terminology in question is what relegates the concern. She was told at that time that she needed to wear Christmas attire because ultimately that is what the manager recognizes. To be literal, holiday attire would mean she could wear something with the Star of David, and a Mennorah if we were Jewish yet the manager would send her home for this. If you consider the word holiday by it's definition you would find that it ultimately is a poor choice of word. Using the term seasonal is more appropriate for the workplace in my personal opinion. They are Christians, and want that to be represented in there establishment. The subjectivity of objection is what makes us unique. If the Manager were Jewish and required the employees to wear Hannukkah holiday attire would you feel the same way? I spoke with a labor law lawyer, and he said mostly the same thing as everyone else. He literally said that if we were Jewish, we had a slam dunk case against them, but because we were Christians we were technically not discriminated against.(although I was not looking to sue them, more just back off) I personally do not object to wearing Christmas items, and saying Merry Christmas to people, but I feel that it should not be forced upon anyone.


                • #9
                  I can see the problem. What I cannot see is the certain illegality. I would say that taken on the whole we have something larger then a "teeny tiny" possibility, but still far from even fifty-fifty. The employer is not interfering with the employees right to practice an established religion. The employer is making the employee wear something they do not want to, which is not inherently against the law. It is VERY common (and generally legal) for employers to get very proactive with the dress code of employees who deal with customers.

                  You can try taking this to a lawyer. I am certain that you can find a lawyer willing to take money (up front) on this. I am much less certain that there is a winning case here. Employers have legally fired employees for putting "vote for ..." signs on their yard at home. Employers have legally fired employees for registering in the "wrong" political party. Employers have legally fired (female) employees for failing to wear costumes not commonly worn in family restaurants, and not part of a hiring requirement. There just is not much case law that I am familiar with that supports your position.

                  Sometimes the only cure to a bad employer is to find a good employer.
                  "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
                  Philip K. **** (1928-1982)


                  • #10

                    Daw, I couldn't agree more. Ultimately this comes down to what is most likely unethical vs illegal. I appreaciate the great response.


                    • #11
                      I'm not even seeing unethical here. The employer celebrates a certain holiday, and wants his/her employees to wear something to reflect that holiday.
                      Employers can decide what their employees can & can't, should & shouldn't wear. As was stated above, forcing an employee to engage in some religious observance would be both illegal and unethical, but having to wear something "Chrismasy" is neither illegal nor unethical.

                      You may disagree with it, and others migth too, but that doesn't make it unethical. It just makes it something you disagree with.

                      I just had to add that because I often get employees complaining to me that their supervisor did something "unethical." My job is to investigate anything allegation of anything illegal or unethical. It usually turns out that the supervisor didn't do anything unethical, they just did something the employee disagreed with. Big difference.


                      • #12
                        There are a couple of Disney cases going on over their required uniforms clashing with the 'right' to wear head coverings. We'll see how it goes, but these folks knew when they were hired that they'd have to wear the costume. Both cases look like the women got themselves hired just so they could raise the issue.
                        I am not an attorney, and don't play one on TV. Any information given is a description only and should be verified by your attorney.


                        • #13

                          Alice, the same situation plagued Abercrombie and Fitch. It will be interesting to see how this plays out for Disney.

                          TSC, A company requires that you wear attire to recognize the Christian holiday of Christmas, and you question whether that's unethical? At the very least it is unethical by definition. Since we are Christians it takes the illegality out of the situation as we personally were not discriminated against, but her Jewish coworker definitely has a case. Now, complaining about ethics when a company requires me to wear red, when I like blue is fatuous. Entirely different situation here.


                          • #14
                            I work in mental health. One very well-known mental health agency in our area is Jewish Family Services. I'm not Jewish, but if I worked for them and they wanted me to wear something to recognize Hanukkah, I would not consider that "unethical" on their part.

                            Another well-known mental health provider is Catholic Social Services. I'm not Catholic, but if I worked for them, I'd be expected to recognize Catholic holidays my faith doesn't recognize. Would they force me to worship or observe the holiday? No, that would be both illegal and unethical. But recognize them, sure. Not unethical.

                            It's not unethical to say "as a company, here's something we value, and we expect you to participate" unless that thing they value or that required participation is illegal or morally wrong.

                            Plus, I'm sure the restaurant was not expecting staff to wear a sweatshirt with a manger scene or the Virgin Mary, but maybe something with snowflakes, snowmen, and holly. There is Christmas the religious holiday and Christmas the secular holiday. Big difference.
                            Last edited by TSCompliance; 02-01-2011, 02:21 PM.


                            • #15

                              TSC, to be clear your references both include an organized religion in their title. The company I am referring to does not. I personally work for a multi-billion dollar organization and can assure you that we would not expect our employees to wear Hanukkah attire because our founders were Jewish. Our legal department isn't large enough to handle the amount of lawsuits that would be lodged. We also only recognize government holidays. When you ask someone to wear Christmas attire, I understand that there can be some gray are. The Christmas they were referring to is that of the celebration of the birth of Christ. Christmas by definition is a Christianity derived event. If I asked you to wear Hanukkah attire how would you feel about that? Hanukkah is a religious holiday in the same way Christmas is. If I asked you to wear Eid Al-Fitr attire, would you be willing or comfortable? Lets say your wife worked for me at a franchised chain grocery store, and I were Muslim. If I suddenly changed the dress code requiring her to wear a burqa, would this be unethical? We can argue all day regarding that which is unethical, or ethical, but this is where lawsuits are born.


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