Avoiding Holiday-Related Employment Disputes

Holiday.jpgThe holiday season is here, and that means many employers will be dealing with issues like reduced productivity, holiday party plans, and end-of-year priorities that demand attention.

If that sounds familiar, now is also a good time to review your employment policies with your employees. Doing so can reduce disputes and make it easier to navigate the holidays peacefully.

Pay and wages

Thanksgiving and Christmas Day are legal holidays in Minnesota. Many private employers also give their employees these holidays off, but they are not obligated to do so, and they aren’t obligated to provide them as paid days off either–that is, unless they have published a policy that so provides. In addition, working a holiday does not, in and of itself, mandate overtime pay, unless the employee has already worked 40 hours over the course of the week.

Your employee handbook should explain your company’s specific policies regarding holiday working expectations and pay rates.

Sexual harassment

Holiday parties and office events can bring out the less professional side of people, especially if there is alcohol involved. In these situations, people can cross lines and engage in behaviors that violate a co-worker’s human rights. Be sure to clearly define harassment for employees and remind them of what is not acceptable behavior at work functions.

If an incident does occur, take any complaints a person files seriously. Investigate the claim thoroughly and respond in a timely manner.


Holidays and related celebrations are largely religious and cultural. As such, employers must not discriminate against a worker who takes holidays off or otherwise adheres to religious observations. Managers and employees alike should understand that harassing, disciplining, or penalizing someone because of their religion can be grounds for serious penalties.

While these employment-related matters can arise at any point throughout the year, they can be particularly evident during the holidays. Employers who take the time to review their policies and discuss them with their employees can mitigate the chance of making regrettable mistakes.