Human Resources News & Insights

Was she fired for saying Merry Christmas?

An employee at a vacation rental company claims she was fired for greeting customers on the phone with “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” Now a legal group is representing her before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Tonia Thomas claims her boss, Andy Phillips, at Counts Oakes Resort Properties in Lynn Haven, FL, fired her because she didn’t say Happy Holidays as her telephone greeting script was written.

Phillips says Thomas’ claims are false and that he fired her for different reasons, including insubordination, according to WJHG-TV.

However, Phillips does say that he wanted employees to use Happy Holidays because, “there’s also Hanukkah and we want to make sure we put a script in place that was not offensive to someone who did not celebrate Christmas.”

The EEOC complaint accuses the company of religious discrimination. She’s seeking compensation for lost wages. Thomas has found another job, but it doesn’t pay as much as what Counts Oakes paid her.

“I hold my core Christian values to a high standard and I absolutely refuse to give in on the basis of values,” said Thomas. She said she either wanted to wish people a Merry Christmas or not mention holidays at all because as a Christian she doesn’t recognize other holidays.

Thomas says she’s a Baptist.

Thomas Harper, an employment law attorney in Florida, says Thomas could have a hard time winning the case.

“I don’t think an employee has the right to insist [on saying Merry Christmas] unless that really is a tenet of their faith … if not, it becomes insubordination.”

His advice about workplace holiday greetings: The best choice might be not to say anything.

What do you think about Thomas’ lawsuit? Let us know in the Comments Box below.

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  • JVN

    I think for a lot of Christians, “Happy Holidays” rings a little flat, and it is even offensive for some, so I understand how Ms. Thomas feels. Still, there are other holidays at that time of year – Hanukkah, Kwaanza, and sometimes even Ramahdan. I think the employer was within his rights to have his employees use, “Happy Holidays”, particularly in an industry like tourism where the goal is to attract and welcome as many members of the public as possible.

    Thomas probably has a legitimate argument for not being forced to say, “Happy Holidays”, but not for being permitted to say, “Merry Christmas”. I don’t think any employee has a right to say whatever they want to a customer. The employer should be able to set a standard on how its employees communicate with its customers.

  • Cynthia

    I agree that she has the right to say Merry Christmas. That is the holiday that we observe on December 25th, that everyone, whether they are Christians, Jews or any other faith all get paid a day off to observe. If the people that are offended by us saying Merry Christmas feel so offended, then why are then not insisting that they work on December 25th because it is not a holiday that they observe. Instead, they are hypocrites, for saying one thing and taking the holiday pay for the holiday that they do not observe!!!!!!!!!

    I am so sorry that they are offended but they are chosing to live in the United States of America that was founded on Christian principles. If you don’t like it, then move!!!

  • “She said she either wanted to wish people a Merry Christmas or not mention holidays at all because as a Christian she doesn’t recognize other holidays.”

    This employee was putting her religious convictions above her job and possibly causing a financial hardship to the company by offending potential customers. Because of this I say the employer had the right to fire her for insubordination. Also, it sounds like Ms. Thomas needs a refresher course in diversity/sensitivity training.

  • aoy

    I think this whole issue has gone way beyond rational. I think we have have freedom of speech and it should be honored. However, If Ms. Thomas was given a direction from her boss, she needs to follow it unless it is immoral or illegal. In this case her bosses request was neither immoral or illegal and she was being insubordinate in not complying with the request.

  • I wish all you naysayers would get over it! We’re all so tired of this “political correctness”!! This is our country – we celebrate Christmas. Most – if not all – African-Americans and Jewish people do not object to greetings like Merry Christmas. The ones who may object are those who celebrate something else. If they don’t like it, they can go back from whence they came.

  • Ken Tynes

    I believe Scott M. said it as well as anyone can. She definitely needs a few refresher courses.

  • LS

    Now hold on a minute, Cynthia. Yes, it is true that companies are closed on Christmas however, the people that do not celebrate Christmas have no choice in the matter. I would GLADLY work on Christmas if I were given a day off with holiday pay to observe Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. Instead, I have to use my vacation time for days that are sacred to me and I am FORCED to take a day for Christmas when to me it is the same as any other day. You think that makes me a HYPOCRITE?? I don’t think so. And I am not sure how you can say that this is a purely christian country. Last I checked we have a strong separation of church and state and a tolerance, even laws that govern that people, yes, even non-christian people have just as much right to be a part of this society as anyone else.

    To answer the original question, I think the employer has every right to script how an employee answers a business phone if he does not wish to mix religion or personal belief with business. I agree that perhaps it is better not to say anything at all. I am not offended when people say “Merry Christmas” to me, even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I probably feel the same way other people would if I blanketly said “Happy Chanukah” to everyone without any regard for their personal beliefs. It just feels odd.

  • Chuck Jackson

    As others have said, this issue has gone way beyond rational. However, Ms Thomas is working for someone else and it is likely that organization has clients who are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, etc. Do you risk offending a customer/client? Your job as an employee is to follow directions of your employer as long as they are not offensive or immoral. Just say “Happy Holidays” to cover all bases. As a Christian I have no problem saying Happy Holidays. After all, the New Year holiday falls just after Christmas.

  • JD

    I often wonder how we got to the position that ones persons rights was above anothers. Why is more important or right to take away my rights to make another feel good? By saying Merry Christmas you are following your personnal feelings and rights, to not be allowed to do that, takes that right away for the satisfaction of another. If we are not careful we may not like what this leads to.

  • ED

    The issue is this – She was directed to use a script – the script did not in any way make her violate any part of her religious tennents. While I would prefer to hear Merry Christmas – that is not what she was directed to do. She was insubordinate and not to follow the direction of her religion – it was her preference.

    I have been attending church less and less due to the extreme view of “go back to where you came from” people like Judy and Cynthia.

    This country was founded by those of numerous religions not primarily “christian” check your history books.

    The constitution states freedom of religion not freedom for christians.

  • Mike

    I have dealt with these issues for 30 years and I am tired of the whole thing…the political correctness thing and the workplace correctness thing. Don’t we all have better things to do and more difficult issues to resolve?

    Beyond that, I hope that this issue was discussed with the employee before termination and I hope the employer made it crystal clear that she needed to follow the script or she would face termination…if not, he screwed this up.

  • Claudia

    Are all comments on this website made by HR professionals? If so, I am so disappointed at some of the comments — they are unprofessional and most importantly insensitive to many people. Remember what makes this country … immigrants from all backgrounds and faith … that is what makes America so great! Cynthia & Judy if you are in HR … you are in the wrong field.

  • Mitzie

    She was given a script to read when she answered the phone, she deviated from that script, which in my mind, is a terminable offence. It doesn’t really matter what the script said she was told to read it.

  • Judy & Cynthia said it! This political correctness has been been carried to the extent that there isn’t anyone that couldn’t be offended by a word ! For goodness sakes people get a life; if someone tells you Merry Christmas then smile and move on. The Christians are the ones that are being discriminated against ~ one nation under God. Offended by Happy Holidays ~ you bet ~ because I am a Christian ~ do I go cry in my milk when someone says Happy Holidays ~ no ~ I respond with Merry Christmas and get on with my day!! I do agree that Ms. Thomas is being paid to do a job and if the employer wants a certain greeting then she should comply or they could come to the agreement to not say anything. If Ms Thomas had other disciplines in place then maybe it was time for her to go ~ but not just on the issue of Merry Christmas or saying nothing at all. It is interesting that employees of all beliefs accept the PAID holiday ~ and won’t take that shift for those that truly observe Christmas for the celebration of Christs birth.

  • Matt Newcomer

    I am amazed by how many HR professionals responded negatively to someone saying “Happy Holidays.” The workplace is a place of business, thus you comply with the manager’s request if it is legal and ethical. You can say “Merry Christmas” all you want outside of the workplace. I am a Christian, but I still say “Happy Holidays” in and outside the workplace because there is nothing wrong with it…for Christians and non-Christians alike!

  • Cindy

    JVN wrote a very succinct answer, my views are exactly the same and I think the legal system will back that up. An employer should and does have some control over what their employees say and they should have the ability to discipline those who act outside the guidelines. If they didn’t, business would be in a world of trouble.

    I think Judy and Cynthia are out of line and assuming a lot. Not everyone takes the ‘paid’ day off as Christmas, as many employers allow their employees floating Holidays to celebrate according to their faith. Why is it so hard for people to be sensitive to others beliefs? You’re not being asked to believe or practice another faith or religion. “Go back where they came from”, now there’s a setback I can’t believe is in writing! Let’s go back to the days of slavery. Oh, but wait, they didn’t ask to come here and be enslaved now did they?! Let’s not educate Indians either, after all they’re just savages, right? Get with it ladies…

  • Emily

    I think that it is hypocrytical for her to say that she insists on saying Merry Christmas because she doesn’t recognize any other holidays. What about the individuals that don’t recognize Christmas. I celebrate Christmas and recognize it importance, but I am not going to be so bold as to shove it down others throats if they don’t celebrate the same holiday.
    Furthermore, not all the Founding Father’s were Christians. Franklin and Jefferson were deists, Washington harbored a pantheistic sense of providential destiny, John Adams began a Congregationalist and ended a Unitarian, Hamilton was a lukewarm Anglican for most of his life but embraced a more actively Christian posture after his son died in a duel. The Constitution makes no reference to a divine being, Christian or otherwise, and the First Amendment explicitly forbid the establishment of any official church or creed.
    It angers me to think that there are Christians out there who are so up in arms about this Happy Holidays greeting. Why can you not see that you could be offending others who don’t celebrate Christmas. As Christians we are to be accepting of all people and lead by example.

  • ED

    This is not about being politically correct –

    She was insubordinate – end of story.

    I find it amazing that the “christians” posting here are so unforgiving, angry and self centered. That is not the message that Jesus Christ tried to bring to the world.

  • JVN

    ED is absolutey spot on! I am a Christian, but am often leary of applying that label to myself publicly, not because I am in any way ashamed of associating myself with Christ, but because I don’t want to be associated with the intolerance and mean-spirted behavior of those oh-so-vocal members of our society who proclaim themselves Christians and then use their Christianity as a stick to beat on their fellow man.

  • While there are many factors like insubordination and religious discrimination, I feel that everyone should respect each others space. I don’t always think in the same manner of my Boss. But, we will sit down and have a discussion so that we each can understand how the other feels. Then we can make an informed decision on how to solve the problem. Demanding that she say “Happy Holidays”, could have been explained by, having her understand that it has nothing to do with her but, for the customers and clientele that are being served. This way it is not to offend anyone. Communication can go a long way.

  • Albert Roark

    Religious views aside, the employer is the one who sets up the policy. If she had a problem with the policy, she should have discussed this with the employer instead of taking upon herself to disregard the policy set down. If she still had a problem with the policy afterwards and due to whatever reason she was unable to abide by the policy, then find another job where the policy is more to her liking.
    The Constitution does not state we have freedom to choose our religion, it states the federal government will not make laws that restrict the choice of religion. If a private employer does not want to have religious views as part of his company, then he should be able to set his policy to allow this. If an employee does not agree with the employers policies, then the employee should find another job that will allow him to express those views, or, as many others have done, start his own company where he can set whatever policy he wants.
    As for the Christian view…even Christ said to Caesar his own.

    I do not like to hear Happy Holidays either, but that is because the season this is said revolves around Christmas, not the other holidays that happen during that time. I do not see major employers giving employees the choice of what holiday to take off with pay, I do not see the federal or state governments giving employees a choice of what holiday to take off with pay. When this happens, then it would truly be the holiday season.

  • kevin

    This is an HR site, correct? So as an HR person I say she was given clear direction and instructions and deliberately decided not to do that. That would be insuborniation. She does not have a “right” to be employed by this employer and the employer has every right to dismiss her if she does not do what she is paid to do. If the script bothers her, she should have spoken up. Maybe the employer would have compromised. If the employer choses not to (which is their right – I shudder to think of what drivel the courts would deal with if they ruled otherwise), she should suck it up or find another position. Let’s not confuse this with the marketing conversation of is this a good idea or not.

  • I agree to a point, we need to reach out to all potential customers without appearing to be affensive, but we are so busy worring about affending someone who is not of the Christian faith, that as Christians we are not allowed the same freedoms as other religions. “Happy Holidays” does represent all religions. But I say shouldnt be afraid to say “Merry Christmas” if I am a Christian. America was founded on a basis of freedom, but I don’t think the founding fathers expected to sacrifice Christian beliefs in the process. My children can no longer sing “Silent Night” at a winter program (not Christmas Program because we might offend someone), but they can sing “Grandma got run over by a reindeer”. Where is the logic to that. We are willing to give up believing in something good and moral to runover grandma, come on……

    She should have used the script that was provided by her job, but it is getting to the point that if you are a white christian you have to walk on egg shells. The very freedoms who offered to people coming to “America” are being taken from the people who founded “America”.

  • Michele

    No one mentioned being an atheist… are we offending them by wishing them a “Happy Holiday”? I am a Christian and as an adult I miss the “Merry Christmas” greetings from my childhood. I am so disgusted at this point with the way the “world” is trying to make everything politically correct so that it affects no one negatively. Is that possible? If Ms. Thomas was not happy with saying “Happy Holidays” then does she not have the freedom to take another job?

  • HR Rep

    Thanks Ed you took the words right of my mouth, and for the people who want non Christians to work on Christmas, that is fine with us but we should also get our non Christian holidays off as well. Which does not always happen.

  • RMW

    Actually ED, there were NOT “numerous religions” during the founding of our country. In fact, “Christian[ity]” WAS the primary reason. Please “check your history books.”

    And please know, that I do agree that there was probably something more behind this action; and that an employee needs to follow a directive unless it is immoral or illegal.

    I believe the reason we are reading comments with emotion is that there are people who feel they are being discriminated against. Let’s face it, diversity and sensitivity training is, by design, skewed – sometimes appropriately, sometimes not. This training is value laden – it has to be.

    The question is, can you provide an environment (and training) that allows people to feel comfortable in who they are and where they work? The answer is YES! The values of Christianity like love and peace, supersede all of the hostility that exists on both sides.

  • I believe that the termination may have been too hasty if she has been a “model” employee and is fired without a warning. I think more details of this employee’s record and previous discipline would need to be known if the termination was justified or not. What has been the company’s past practice when an employee hasn’t followed direction completely? Do they always fire without discipline? It seems like to fire her without a warning indicates this might only be an excuse…justified I am not inclined to agree.

  • Martha Diaz

    She was not fired for saying Merry Christmas. That’s absurd. She was fired for not following directions. The end. (Big thumbs down to a money-grubbing lawyer who would take this case).

  • Pat

    I agree with Kevin. The employee was insubordinate…the end!

  • Zach

    UGGGG!!!! I think too many people have forgotton a very simple fact. Christmas is the celebration of the Birth of Christ! Do people not get this?

  • Martin

    Anyone who says that non-Christians should leave the country are showing their bigoted ignorant colors and have no place in HR.

    Just because you want people to say MERRY CHRISTMAS to you, doesn’t mean other people want to HEAR it.

    Plus, come on, she was so CLEARLY insubordinate. Maybe she just likes the attention that this is bringing her. Jesus would be so proud of her intolerance.

  • Janice

    I agree, Kevin. This is not a religious issue – it’s a business issue. Also, I’m a little confused as to how a Christian can say she does not recognize any other holiday but thinks I should recognize hers. This is not about political correctness – this is about following the policies of your company and being polite to your fellow human beings. I like Christmas, although I’m not Christian, but I begin saying Happy Holidays around Thanksgiving, as I believe that phrase covers the “holiday season” not any one specific holiday. If however, someone says, “Merry Christmas” to me, I do not fly into a rage of self-righteous anger. My company can dictate how I address our customers because they pay me to be a representative of them – and outside of the company I do as I please – that’s the freedom of being in the U.S.

  • SEF

    ED is the voice of reason here. I am a Christian and prefer to wish a Merry Christmas to my Christian friends but the issue here is following the instructions of her employer. And I’m sorry, but America was founded on religious freedom and tolerance, not Christianity. Let’s not become the isolationists we object to.

  • Suzanne

    The article states the facts correctly – she will have a difficult time winning this one because religious discrimination suits are won when and only when your employer disrespects your right to do something your religion REQUIRES you to do. Christians are not REQUIRED to say “Merry Christmas” as part of their religious tenets.

    But…religion aside, the employer provides a script employees are expected to follow. Assuming this is always the case, as long as they fire employees who don’t follow the script at other times of the year, they can do so during the holiday season, too.

    And as for those non-Christians who “celebrate” Christmas by taking the day off, we have to remember that most don’t have a choice. Their employers lock the doors and don’t allow them to come to work. the employer chooses to pay them to stay home. And really…employers don’t provide this paid holiday (or any other) because they want their employees to celebrate the holiday – why would they care what you do on the day off? they give you the day off because they are FEDERAL holidays and as such, most of your customers, vendors, and other business associates won’t be available anyway. It’s got nothing to do with religion…it has to do with the recognized holidays of the country!

    If we want to use this extreme example – non-Christians shouldn’t be allowed to have a paid holiday on Christmas – then anyone not born in America or who isn’t a citizen shouldn’t be given Independence Day off; if you’re not a veteran no Verteran’s Day or Memorial Day observance for you! Not black? No Martin Luther King Day! Employers simply choose to observe certain holidays because they are federal holidays and it’s easier to decide which ones to celebrate.

    Let us not forget that unlike Christians who generally get to choose when to take their vacation and personal days and what to do on those days off, non-Christians often have to use those days to observe their religious holidays because they do not receive the time off.

    It would be too onerous for employers to allow all religions to have paid time off for every holiday their religion specifies – first of all, some religions will have more than others, so you’ll then have people complaining that so-and-so gets more time off than me and employers would have to know every holiday of every religion, which would be almost impossible to do…and most of all, lest we forget, we’d all then be required to tell our employer what our religion is, and to PROVE that we practice that religion. And what about atheists? They just have to work every darn day!

  • Carol

    I agree with Kevin – she was insubordinate in not following the prescribed script. Personally I am never offended by a greeting of Happy Holidays – I consider it respectful in cases where one does not know the religious affiliation of the person being addressed, rather than assuming that all are, or should be, Christian. When I am aware of the religious preference, I use an appropriate greeting. (To those who responded insisting that ‘Merry Christmas’ should be the universal greeting because you personally are Christian: How would you react if a Jewish friend greets you with “Happy Hanukkah”?)

  • Piper

    If the EEOC is bringing this case for her, they must believe that there is some cause to believe her Title VII rights were violated. They do not take on many cases and usually just give someone a right to sue letter and let it go. I am an active Christian as well and I say Merry Christmas because that is what I am celebrating — the birth of Christ. At the same time, I am not “offended” by people who say “Happy Holidays” or even “Happy Hanukkah” because I want them to also express what they are celebrating. You don’t draw people closer to God by getting “angry” about such minor things. The legal issue here will be whether or not she was somehow prohibited from practicing her own religion by being disallowed to say “Merry Christmas.” As an employment lawyer for a major corporation, I have seen crazier cases so I am not suprised. In that respect, I think this is kind of an issue of political correctness and, frankly, it is not worth the drama. On the other hand, it will be difficult for her to prove that just by saying “Happy Holidays” she would be forced to negate the basic tenet of Christianity…. so I would bet they end up settling out of court just to avoid anymore media exposure.

    That’s just my two cents!

  • Karen

    I agree with everyone from Ed down. She was insubordinate and that is the end of it. It would be the same if this was a case of her being asked to do something a certain way and she specifically did it another way because she did not believe the bosses way is right. That is certainly a clear case of insubordination and I find it offensive as not being a “Christian” that the above comments were even stated and may think twice about going to a company for business that does not support all religions and backgrounds.
    As an HR website, it seems as if HR has some individuals still in it that should not be. HR professionals need a clear and open mind when it comes to religion and to separate it from the workplace, not define your ways by which religions holiday of yours is coming up.

  • Monica

    Wow, I think this will always be a hot topic. As an HR professional I have to recognize diversity, so when I am in the work environment I say happy holidays with the knowledge that as a Christian this includes Christmas. Outside of work and when I take my HR hat off I say Merry Christmas because that is the holiday I celebrate.

    As an HR consultant to the vacation rental company I would have advised that the manager compromise with the employee by allowing her to say the standard professional greeting that she would say on any other day in the office. I would strongly urge him not to terminate her if this was her sole offense. This would possibly keep her moral in tact and also save the company recruitment expenses.

  • Deborah

    I am Christian and also prefer “Merry Christmas”. However, as an H.R. Manager, this is not the issue. Tonia Thomas did not follow the orders of her boss, Andy Phillips – she was insubordinate and, therefore, termination or suspension were the only options.

    Please Christians, obey the Bible which says, “submit to the governing authorities”. Were the “authorities” asking Tonia to do something illegal or against her religion. No.

    The USA is a melting pot of many diverse people with many diverse religions. Love is the key. “Happy Holidays” in business is the best. When you leave your job, by all means say, “Merry Christmas”.

  • starinin

    In our company it is “Happy Holidays” thru the entire “holiday” season. Since Tonia was given a clear directive and she chose to not follow it I feel she is guilty of insubordination. I am a firm believer in “Merry Christmas” also but in all fairness I only make a point of “Merry Christmas” on Christmas day. That way it should not offend anyone of different or no faiths.

    The holiday season is “Happy Holidays” and since Christmas is but one day, should it be said to cover all of the holidays? I am also a christian but I do honor that other people have holidays of their faith too. Was not Hanakkuh celebrated by the Jewish faith before Christmas was celebrated by us christians?

    In any business employees should follow whatever protocol their employer set forth.

  • Maureen

    Insubordination. It’s stunning that Christians take such offense to Happy Holidays. Raised Catholic, we always said ‘Happy Holidays’ to imply–‘Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Year’. As I grew older, I realized Jewish are celebrating their holidays and then Kwanza…and I thought ‘how nice, 2 words cover all of us ALONG WITH “Happy New Year”! It is truly practicing God’s Unconditional love for us that we lighten up completely. I have never found a Jewish friend who is insulted or offended by ‘Merry Christmas’ and I have no issue saying ‘Happy Hannaka’ to them even if I can’t spell it! If an employer opts to have the phone answered with ‘Happy Holiday’s’, then Christians, Atheists, Jews, African Americans and anyone in between….should follow the request of their employer. It’s not immoral, offensive or anything other than ‘the Companies phone greeting’. If it’s a German company and the requested an employee answer the phone with ‘Guten Tag, How may I help you?’, as an English speaking Irish-American, the only reason NOT to is, Insubordination. The only person practicing Religious discrimination is the fired employee.

  • Lajgirl

    I am a Christian who says Merry Christmas and also Happy Holidays to mean Christmas, Hanukkah, any other holiday at that time of year as well as New Year’s in case I don’t talk to that person before then. As a Christian, I believe I should be kind to others and respect their beliefs as I want them to respect mine. If I mean to give people a blessing by wishing them well at a certain time of year, don’t I undermine my purpose by forcing their blessing to be on my terms?
    I am also an HR professional that understands that the point of being at work is to get work done, not to educate others on my faith. It is a much more powerful message to live your faith than to talk about it anyway.

  • K. Hamm

    Amen, Kevin!

    I can hardly wait for some court to decide that an employee can dictate company policy based on that individual’s religious beliefs. Personally, I believe in happiness. If she was unhappy at that employer, she should have found a different environment that would have made her happier.

  • Shyann

    I would agree with Ed and Jun, you don’t see any other religions insisting that we say Happy (fill in the blank). And if they did, I would certainly not look down on them I would just simply say Merry Christmas. We should both be adult enough to accept that the other believes in there own religion and that’s that.

    As far as working the holiday, most business are closed, and if they are not then they get a paid holiday off. Show me one person who would not willingly take a paid day off for Hanukkah. If my employer was Jewish and paid me for time off for a holiday they believe in I would not complain, and I don’t think I should be chastised for taking it off.

    The fact of the matter is if she didn’t feel right saying it then she should have gone to her employer and said something and agreed to say nothing at all. But I can’t imagine an employer firing her for just that, there was prob more to it. And if she is so concerned about her religion I suggest she find an employer that is just as radical as she is.

  • Bryan

    In response to Cynthia’s point about employees getting paid for the Christmas holiday. Not all people observe Christmas, which is the thinking behind employers choosing to greet a customer, employee, ect. with Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. As to your reasoning that all employees have the day off for Christmas and are paid for that day. Because of labor laws employers normally would have to allow all eligible employees a day off for any scheduled holidays regardless of whether an employee celebrates that holiday. Employees who may practice a different religion from Christianity and who are eligible for the Christmas holiday may not wish to take this day off of work. I suspect most of them would prefer to take the holiday representing their own religion or belief.

    You appear a bit short sighted and narrow minded to call those who don’t celebrate Christmas “hypocrites”. You views might be seen in a better light if you were to present your views with less anger and emotion. I was raised a Christian, but I understand and respect that other human beings have different beliefs than I do. In addition, the founders of this country intended it to be free of religious persecution. Most early immigrants coming to this country, many who were some form of Christianity, practiced religion differently than how you might practice today.

  • Elaine

    I’m sick of the whole “politically correct” farce that is being imposed on Americans. This truly is not a freedom of speech country any more. If I were faced with answering the phone “Happy Holidays”, I would choose not to comment on it at all and just say good morning and be done with it. For years and years it was OK to say Merry Christmas. Now because of all the illegals and immigrants we have to conform to what they want? Outrageous!!! Our rights are slowly being taken away from us. I continue to say, and always will, Merry Christmas. If I offend somebody, too bad. They offend me by saying happy holidays. Hope you all had a Merry Christmas!

  • Shannon

    Cynthia, get educated. She does not have the right to say whatever she wants at her employer’s place of business. If she couldn’t bring herself to say “Happy Holidays” per her employer’s scripted request she should have resigned or asked for a LOA until after the first of the year.

  • Janet

    Since she is representing her employer, she should abide by its policies and customs. Plus, I don’t understand why anyone would find “Happy Holidays” offensive. That term has been in use a long time, before political correctness took over. I use it in addition to “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year”.

  • RT

    I am a Christian and think it is UN-Christian to create false controversies like the one this former employee was involved in.

    I was taught that Christianity is fundamentally about humility, kindness, and love. Instead, there is a faction of my religion that has gone the other way, using aggression, bullying, and looking for conflict where there is none.

    Frankly, I’m tired of this nonsense.

    When you are an employee, you work for your employer and should be focused on the organization’s objectives, not your own personal objectives that are not business-related. This person chose to work for that employer and should abide by all reasonable work rules. Scripture says, “Render unto God what is God’s, render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

    Furthermore, this is a democratic, pluralistic society we live in. This isn’t a theocracy.

  • Piper

    Hmmmm. From some of these comments, I am getting the feeling that a lot of people on here do not even know about Title VII. That kind of concerns me if you are an HR person…. In fact, it is the most bothersome thing I have read on here thus far! 😉 I am not saying that she has a “good” case, but there IS a federal law that prohibits religious discrimination by a private employer and the vast majority of states have corresponding laws that say the exact same thing. It is just like any other type of discrimination — race, sex, pregnancy. Just for the record, this has nothing to do with the Constitution which governs actual governmental agencies. A lot of time the law is not “logical” or in line with your gut instinct, but it is the law nonetheless. If the employer did ask her to do something and it did violate her religious rights, then it would be illegal. So, the real focus here should be whether or not the employer’s directive did, in fact, do that….

  • Dave

    If I go to Saudi Arabia I don’t expect to be greeted with Happy Holidays. I don’t expect them to change their greetings from their local heritage what-so-ever to accomodate me. And once more, I’m certain that they won’t. This is the United States. In God We Trust. I say let’s fire the employer. What has happened to our heritage. This country was founded on Christianity. You don’t like my opinion….sue me!

  • Johnann

    I am with Cynthia and Judy!!! Ed it sounds like you go to church to see what other people have to say instead of listening to what GOD has to say. This country was founded on Christianity!! Not whatever religion you want to be!!! Stop and think aboutit. The true Americans in this country have had to set back and powder the bottoms of all the people that come to this country for what it can offer them. Why do you think this country is so great? Because at one time it put GOD first! Look at the shape its in now. We started worrying about what everyone else thinks and we are in a recession now. Lets get back to putting GOD first and see how this country turns around!!! In giving every other religion the freedom to practice as they may in our country, we have discriminated against ourselves! Its time we take a stand for OUR religion! Yes she may have had a script to go by and did not follow it but I’m glad she took a stand! I’m sure if you all think about it, you will find something that you have done that could cost you your job but I bet it wasn’t as important as taking a stand for OUR beliefs!

  • MS

    Oh for goodness sakes! As a Christian myself, I have no problem with “Happy Holidays” because I respect that not everyone has the same religious views as I do. If she really had an issue with this, then maybe no mention of holidays at all would have been better. Too many “religious” people have no respect for cultures or religions that do not agree with their own beliefs…but they also complain when someone doesn’t respect their beliefs. If you want others to respect your beliefs, then you must respect theirs. End of story.

  • Pat

    It is about political correctness. We have to watch how we address everything because we might offend someone. Where did common sense go. I’m a Christian but I’m not offended by people who don’t celebrate it this is AMERICA we are all different. However, we should not be forced to tip toe around because we might offend someone. I’m tired of it and in my position I do it on a daily basis. It shouldn’t be about what I believe it should be about people. Treat eveyone with respect. There have alwlays been other holidays around Christmas and there is nothing wrong with “Happy Holidays” but no one needs to be offended by Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah what is wrong with us???? Bottom line she was insubordinate but her employer shouldn’t have to worry about the greeting offending anyone…

  • Denise D

    As HR representatives, we owe all employees and customers the respect of inclusiveness. While our personal opinions will likely vary, we should not put ourselves in a position to claim our views or religion as superior to others. Some of the above comments sound extremely harsh coming from employees who should be finding ways to bring more diversity into the workplace. Workplaces are becoming more global and HR representatives along with employees will have to become more tolerant of others.

    Not sure what the problem is with saying “Happy Holidays” – its a perfectly neutral statement. It includes any holiday you may celebrate along with New Years.

    Should the employee be fired? Not sure. Yes she was insubordinate, however the article does not say what other progressive discplinary actions were taken prior to her being terminated.

    One last jab – Obedience is also a Christian value!

  • Emily

    While in my personal life I prefer “Merry Christmas,” this is a business issue. What you say off the clock is what you want, while on the clock, employees need to stick to the company’s policies. And Ed is exactly right. As a Christian, I am more offended by the ignorance and hate-filled “go back where you came from” mentality (that is so clearly not a tenant of the teachings of Jesus!) than anything else. In case you don’t realize it, unless you’re Native American, we ALL came from somewhere else somewhere along the way.

  • M. Kathy Hague

    Freedom of Religion….Freedom of Speach = The United States of America. We have Federal Laws that encompass every one, business owner or worker. While working for my employer, I follow the rules they have in place, as God instructs me to do. All the while my behavior must tell the story of my faith. Ending her conversation with “and a Merry Christmas”, would have shared her beliefs as all Christians are also instructed to do. If her employer forbid her that, then there is a legal question here.

  • M. Cuba

    If the employee was directed to read a script that did no violate her religious values and chose to not follow this script she should be fired. I too am a christian however I do not feel the need to shove my values down someone else’s throat. I also do not get offended by religions outside of Christianity. Everyone needs to learn to be tolerant of those around you. That is what our country was founded on. Not Christianity, not Judism – but freedom. I work for a company that says “Merry Christmas” but I am also not offended if someone says “Happy Holidays”. If everyone spent more time being nice to eachother and less complaining the world would be a more tolerant place.

  • Sue

    Well said Janice. With that said, it is stated that the employee could say “Happy Holidays” or say nothing at all. Why did she not choose to say nothing at all when she greeted clients? Why did she have to sue the company? Sounds like she would be an employee looking to cause problems for an employer.
    I am a Catholic Christian and if my job requires me to say Happy Holidays then I say it. Once I leave work I say Merry Christmas and most of the time no one is offended.

  • Jacquelyn

    We avoid all of this where I work, our telephone script is always the same regardless of the time of year. “Thank you for calling ______, this is ______, how may I help you.”
    You accomplish so much with this greeting, 1) thanking the customer for calling you because there are a thousand other firms doing the same thing that they could have called 2) you state your name so the caller know who they are talking to 3) you immediate offer help, which is what most callers are looking for anyway.

  • Many Paths One Summit

    To all the fundamentalist Christians who so ardently defend their faith and
    their right to trample others rights, We are not a Christian country. We are a country dedicated to
    “Freedom of Religion” and where “all men are created equal”. Certainly not “if you are not a Christian you are something less”. Crazy statements like “they should leave” etc, accomplish nothing other then denigrating the image of Christians, and comes off as extremely bigoted.
    As an aside, from what I have found, a number of tenets of our constitution were modeled after our Native American brothers/sisters. They were not Christians.

    Following that, a business is allowed to require certain work from employees. They are bona fide occupational requirements of the position. If what an employee is required to do is not appropriate given religious considerations, they have the right to stay and do the work, or find other employment that is more appropriate.

  • Michelle

    So do we need to wish a Happy Holiday for Boxing Day? I am so tired of Christmas being the only holiday that offends people. It is OK to say Merry Christmas, even to someone who doesn’t celebrate it. If I do not celebrate Halloween and some wishes me a Happy Halloween, am I going to be offended? How could anyone be offended by wishing a Merry anything? When did we become a society of such whiny complainers who can’t find anything better to do than complain about being offended because someone doesn’t think exactly the same way I do? I say get over it and act like grown ups!

  • JudyP

    As a devout Christian, I’m a little amused by Christians who stomp their feet and insist that they be allowed to say “Merry Christmas” to their employer’s customers, even if it might offend them. Christians are supposed to do all things with love for others over love for self. Christians should consider the following: The U.S., although established as a Christian nation, has been so diversified with other cultures and religions that we can no longer claim to be a Christian nation – our Christian forefathers, as well as their principles, are dead. If we were a Christian nation, we would not legally condone and even promote the mass killing of unborn babies and other atrocities. It seems that a day is soon coming when if Christians want to celebrate their faith, WE may have to move elsewhere. Jesus was not born on December 25th. Even if Jesus would be pleased with his people celebrating his birth (which I’m unsure of), I’m quite sure that he would not be pleased with the commercial, blasphemous fiasco it has become (remember the story of Jesus casting out of the money changers from the temple). Our Christianity is best displayed by thinking of others before ourselves, so we should be very happy to wish others a Happy Hanukah or Happy Kwanza, as long as the holiday doesn’t contradict Biblical truth or offend Jesus. The Bible instructs us to obey authority and to do so is pleasing to God. This doesn’t mean to obey when told to do something contrary to our Christian beliefs, but if our employer wants us to say Happy Holidays so we include ALL the winter holidays (including Christmas) and in order to not offend anyone, true Christians should be especially willing to do so. If Christians want to reestablish our country as a Christian nation, we should all become better examples, walk the talk and love our neighbors as we love ourselves and keep our focus on the practices that really offend God and spend our time trying to stop these.

  • Julie

    Why are you all not working on W2’s??? I wish I had all this time to chat. Heehee

  • Dave B.

    I’m interested in seeing the basis for the claim. How will the plaintiff show lack of reasonable accommodation? Once more facts about the actual situation are revealed, then it will be worthy review and discussion.

  • Smith

    Taking “That’s offensive to me” to the extreme will result in all of us doing nothing but standing there with our mouths closed and our eyes shut in an effort to be “Diversity Sensitive.”

    Oh….wait….eyes shut will probably “OFFEND” someone!
    For that matter…so will just standing there!

  • Evilin

    Ok I want more details. Did her boss reprimand her at all about saying “Merry Christmas”? I think termination is a bit extreme if there were no reprimands. I am a Christian if my job was answering the phone and my boss wanted me to say “Happy Holidays” I would not have a problem with that. I would hope that others would know my conviction to my Christian walk throught life would show everyday not just at Christmas time. There is a line I would draw if asked to do certain things but I would just find myself another job and as a Christian I would know that God would have one waiting for me. I think we spend too much time worrying about church and state and not enough time helping those around us, if each one of us would reach out to one other person we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  • ED

    Elaine –

    You are not a Christian. To blame “illegals and immagrants” on political correctness you show yourself to be highly ignorant.

  • Diane

    I personally think people make too big a deal over this. I am Catholic, and wish everyone a Merry Christmas…as I see it I am not offended when my father-in-law wishes me a “Happy Hanukkah” back or anyone else for that matter. So why not. That is what he celebrates, and Christmas is what I celebrate. It is about the same as wishing someone “God Bless” or “Godspeed”. It is a statement meant to be positive and wishng “best wishes” so I am left wondering, why is either of those sentiments offensive? Doesn’t make much sense to me. Are we going to start making such a fuss when people sneeze? Jeez Louise! If everyone is really that “sensitive” perhaps Seinfeld was correct, a sneeze should be met with a “You are SOOOO goodlooking!”

  • NV

    Wow! How come tolerance is extended to everyone except Christians?

    Should she have been fired? If she was given her written warnings YES. Are her religious convictions worth loosing a job over, only she can answer that.

    The Jehovah Witness in our office doesn’t acknowledge any of the holidays we take off and does take the Christmas bonus. I’ve told her if it goes against her belief she is welcome to work Christmas and Independence Day and all the rest but she doesn’t. Bottom line is this too is her call. You can’t tell people how to worship.

    By the way… Holidays comes from HOLY DAYS.

  • MC

    Ms. Thomas can wish everyone she wants to Merry Christmas on her time. She was on the employer’s time and therefore she should respond as requested.

  • Julie

    I am a Christian and proud of it. While I do say, Merry CHRISTmas and extend it to those who say, Happy Holidays to me, I do believe firing her was a little extreme. However, we do not know the circumstances. How many times was she counseled?? Was she fired after the first time?

    While some may not agree with saying Merry CHRISTmas, the Bible instructions we should be honor those above us. I did not vote for Obama and do not agree with him on some issues but he is now going to be my Commander in Chief and I am to pray for him and for direction for him.
    By not being submission to our employers, are we not sinning??

    Remember, Jesus was accepting. HE loves the sinner, not the sin.

  • I side with the employer because running a successful business requires much religious and holiday tolerance towards “all” creeds and faiths. Cynthia should have been given a warning and not fired but on the other hand………..

    I understand you can’t please evryone but if Cynthia indeed professes to be a real Christian with a script provided to her with instructions at her job then she needed to turn the “other cheek”
    and complied. In my opinion, Cynthia displayed selfish pride and insubordination using the Christian
    excuse to be belligerent.

    Does Cynthia serve in the food line during Christmas holiday serving the homeless?

    I seriously doubt it. The Christian excuse is a smokescreen.

  • Piper

    It looks like they warned her and she refused. At least, that is how I read it. She refused because she thought it violated her religious beliefs. So, again, the only pertinent question (from a legal perspective) is: Does having to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” violate someone’s religious beliefs? If so, it is illegal under Title VII. If not, they had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for terminating her, i.e., insubordination.

  • Susan

    The insubordination that this employee had was 100% wrong. If you are in the customer service industry and you are required use a script, then you better use it. There are people who don’t like being told “have a nice day” at the end of a conversation either, but no one would say they would rather say nothing than say it. If your employer directs you to do somthing that is not illegal, immoral or unsafe, you need to do it.

  • CT

    While I agree that she should have followed the script that her employer provided her, I think firing her was a little harsh. Was she given any coaching for improvement to change her practice, and refused? If that’s the case, then I would say she was insubordinate. Otherwise, I think employees deserve time and opportunity to correct a performance problem.

    As a Christian and an HR professional, I have no problem saying Happy Holidays out of respect for other people’s beliefs. To me, that is obeying the second greatest commandment of Jesus, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Otherwise, I would be self-righteous and unloving.

  • Ivan

    FTW (for the win), the employer had reason to fire her as it has been pointed out. She did not question whether she could substitute her own phrase. Religion is a hot topic but in this case it’s a question of whether or not the employer had a right to fire her based on her failure to follow directions.

  • HR Manager

    C’mon, people, the drama over this is way overblown. It’s something that’s been amplified by certain media and taken up as a cause by a few over-sensitive Christian conservatives on one side and a few equally ridiculous liberals on the opposing side.

    There’s nothing particularly harmful about saying Merry Christmas, as it’s both a Christian AND a secular holiday practiced by people of many faiths and no faith. Many people celebrate the spiritual aspects of it; many others simply celebrate it as a time of tradition, friendly gathering, and giving. I know plenty of each type of Christmas practitioner (Hey, I like that “Christmas practicitioner” phrasing).

    BUT saying Happy Holidays is neither “flat” nor anti-Christian. It’s been customary to say Happy Holidays for ages because it covers the entire season beginning with Thanksgiving, continuing through Christmas and ending with (and including) New Years – all of which are holidays celebrated by most Christians and all of which I hope are happy for you. The nice thing is if, say, Hanukkah is your holiday, I can hope that’s happy, too. (I seriously doubt that there’s a Christian directive to deliberately omit wishes for the happiness of others on their religious holidays. I do have to say that it’s a bit jerky when somebody pointedly says “you mean Merry Christmas” after I say Happy Holidays, because I say both interchangeably without even thinking about it.)

    So, her employer wants her to say Happy Holidays. Big blankin’ deal. She probably doesn’t have a legal basis for refusing. So, she doesn’t want to say Happy Holidays. Big blankin’ deal, again. The employer shouldn’t be a control freak about something like this (I’m guessing from the story that he wasn’t). It’s only been in recent years that people have become sensitive about this big NON-issue. It’s a joke that this is important at all. And by the way, I hope all of you enjoyed your Thanksgiving, had a great Christmas, and are enjoying the New Year – in other words, I hope you had some Happy Holidays! Oh, yeah, and a Merry Christmas, too!

  • ED

    JudyP –

    You said it –

    Jesus taught tolerance by example –

  • Am I correctly reading the e-mails responses? I dare say I am. I absolutely agree with Kevin (January 9th). Regardless of an employee’s particular faith, one most do their job first and foremost. It’s not like this woman was working in a Christmas related gift store selling ornaments, where it makes sense to say Merry Christmas as the phone salutation. And, since when is the term ‘Happy Holidays’ offensive. There are many ‘holidays’; in fact, if you look up the word holiday in a thesaurus the synonyms are; ‘feastive’, ‘celebration’, ‘public holiday’, ‘local holiday’, even refers to it as an ‘anniversary’. The Fourth of July is a holiday too. Is that Holiday offensive to Christians? If so, their relatives must not of sailed over on the Mayflower. Should we tell those individuals to go back to where they came from? And, I am pretty sure Christians don’t object to the word happy. To say Happy Holidays is offensive to Christians, is ridiculous and the argument, unfounded. By the way, I too proudly celebrate Christmas and appreciate its religious significance in my life. However, I recognize that others around me may or may not celebrate the same holidays, at the same time, in the same way. I suspect this woman had many other issues with this employer than having to use the idiom Happy Holidays. I also suspect that this was the only issue she could potentially tie to a legal argument. If she didn’t want to use the expression, my HR recommendation would have been to tell her employer that she simply preferred not to say it and answer the phone just like every other day. If after telling her employer that she didn’t want to say it, he tried to coerce her into using it, now that would have been a legitimate legal agrument on her part.

  • Piper

    My favorite Christian tenet of all times is the famous quote by St. Francis “Witness at all times and, when needed, use words.” I became a Christian at 31 because of the example set by loving, Christian people around me, not because of what those people said to me….

  • Gdya

    Tonia Thomas was fired for not following a direct order from her supervisor. Nothing else matters. That’s insubordination – and possibly not the only example of it. This represents a difference of opinion, which of course the employer will win. If Ms. Thomas honestly couldn’t say “Happy Holidays”, she was unable or unwilling to fulfill an essential function of her job – to read the script she was given. If someone can’t perform an essential function, either they look for another job and resign, or they are let go.

    The only reason to file a lawsuit would be for greed or vengence. Not exactly “core Christian values”. Also, it seems pretty un-Christian to refuse to offer good wishes to anyone who has beliefs other than our own.

    The “legal group” didn’t take this on as a charity case. They are after punitive damages, not just a percent of the few dollars difference in salary between the old position and the new one. Who cares if Counts Oaks Resort Properties has to lay off a few workers to cover their legal defense? Or goes out of business if they loose? If so, hopefully, Ms. Thomas’ former co-workers can find other jobs as quickly as she did.

  • robert lewis

    The “religious discrimination” EEOC issue is totally bogus. SHe is employed at will, the employer may terminate her for any reasons whatsoever . . . as long as it is not a non-permissable reason. She was not fired for “beiing a Christian” . . . she was fired for refusing to perform her job responsibilities as assigned.

    She can say Merry Christmas all she wants when she’s off the clock. This is just another example of the Christian majority trying to inflict their dogma on everyone in the society.

  • Rick

    I’m not politically correct, nor will I play a game with an HE professional who thinks they have the right to dictate what an employee must or must not say. I will tell you that unless it is written in the company policies and trained on and the employee has recieved, understands and has signed off to that undestanding that termination is out of the question and can not be supported by labor nor the eeoc. Policies are set inplace for a reason and just because the employer wants something that is too bad. It must be written and confirmed before discipline can be taken. Actually the employer should have asked for the employee to refrain from saying anything.

  • ED

    Christ set the example by his deeds – he said relatively little.

    Back on point –

    She was asked to say Hapy Holidays or no other greeting.
    1. She refused.
    2. The Baptist teachings do not state that uttering the words “Happy Holidays” is a sin, or a violation of the faith.
    3. Therefore no “accomodation” needed to be made.
    4. She chose to go with her feelings.
    5. She was insubordinate.
    6. She was terminated.

  • We in America have the freedom of speech and the freedom to worship anyway in which our personal convictions lead. If Mrs. Thomas feels that greeting callers at her workplace with Happy Holidays offends her sense of christian morality, then she should have the right to say “Merry Christmas”. . . .unless the Company Policy or Mrs. Thomas’ direct Manager specifically states that she must use Happy Holidays in lieu of Merry Christmas. We are admonished in the Bible , “To respect those who are in authority over you.” With that being said, unless Mrs. Thomas’ morality is being jepordized, she should follow the wishes of the management of the company who pays her justly.

  • Sam

    There is so much at the core of this debate. The tragedy that our world and our ethics (not to mention our toes) have become this ridiculously “sensitive”, is something that everyone, regardless of belief, should be ashamed of. Christians should be ashamed because if so many hadn’t been complacent when the laws were being changed, maybe they wouldn’t have been. Non-Christians should be ashamed because they want to blame everything on Bible believing people and make a media circus out of every benign event. Whether its the Pledge of Allegiance, or the National Anthem or “Merry Christmas”!!! Did this all start with a hot cup of coffee from McDonalds, or what? Do you people put up “Holiday Trees” in your homes? “Holiday Lights”? I think not. Beyond this…and PLEASE let’s get beyond it…Ms. Thomas was given the script to use when answering the phone. THAT and ONLY THAT is the employment issue.

    Ed, I find it amazing that your side of the world wants to accuse Christian people of anger and outspoken behavior. People like you cast every convenient stone in an effort to justify your own agenda and exhonerate your belief system. If Christians (and some non-Christians) who think the whole “correctness” thing is extreme, had spoken out nearly as loud as they should have, this problem might not exist.

    Get a life people – do your job – there are compromises at every turn on life’s road. It’s not like Ms. Thomas was asked to say “Praise Satan”! I do not think the Almighty (or whatever you beleive in) will hold a person accountable for saying “Happy Holidays” from 9 to 5! Oh…Merry Christmas, ya’ll!

  • DO

    Why not go to the source…In the Book of Ephesians, chapter 6, it says, “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.”

  • Wendy

    okay, let’s breathe….

    1 – it is not “Christian” to ignore the holidays of others… we simply do not celebrate them… and really, Jesus was Jewish and he would observe all the Jewish holidays and festivals.

    2 – as a Christian, I have often greeted callers with “Happy Holidays” because it is less cumbersome than saying “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” – and it is the intention that the recipient is wished well for whatever holiday he/she celebrates. And this has been the standard greeting in business and retail for over 30 years, so recent trends in political correctness have no bearing on it.

    3 – greetings should be taken as they are intended – as a cheerful well-wishing greeting, not a political statement.

    Now all that having been said, I am a staunch believer in tolerance, not ignorance (that is, the act of ignoring). We openly allow the members of our staff to display the symbols of their faith and their holidays in their own work area, and we openly ask and share the reasons and traditions for those celebrations. We learn from one another. No censorship – open sharing. And whether or not we acccept or share those beliefs, we understand the beliefs and faith of the others. And we decorate the office for the seasons (wonter, summer, etc), not the holidays. I would never say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Easter” to a Jewish employee, but would offer appropriate greetings on one of their holy-days. If I know them – if I make a point of knowing when they occur – I can do that… and that comes from open sharing.

    So whether or not she said Merry Christmas or Happy Hannukah or offered Kwanzaa greetings is not the real issue here – it’s whether or not she did as she was asked by an employer and whether that was TRULY against her faith.

  • Kim

    I was thinking the same thing Kevin said – this is an HR site, correct? An employee doesn’t have an absolute right to personal expression in the workplace. To me there’s no debate – the employer has a right to set policy that supports the business as long as it doesn’t violate the law, public policy, or an employment contract – employment at will. To me, the employer’s practice was reasonable and didn’t violate the law. I also think if she had expressed her views to the employer, they would have compromised.

  • Layla

    Our medical facility made a point of saying “Merry Christmas”. It reflects the values of the owners of this facility. It is also the federal holiday on the schedule. We also say: Happy Fourth of July; Happy Halloween; and Happy Thanksgiving.

  • Possum

    This whole thing is just silly. Happy Holidays does ring a little flat to some, but it’s WAY better than no acknowledgment of the season at all. And I’ve said “Merry Christmas” to people before and they’ve answered me with “And a Happy Hannukah to you!” It was great. This is beyond silly. Ms. Harper needs to just move on. Her employer didn’t require her to say anything that was offensive to the Baptist faith or the Christian religion. Happy Holidays can very well mean Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. She just wants some cash. Great Christian values there. NOT.

  • Renee

    This shows us that we have way too much time on our hands to be worrying about this garbage… Look around you – what problems do the rest of the world have?

  • ED

    SAM –

    What is my side of the world?

    I am a Christian.

    Did you even read the comments of the “Christians” – they sound hate filled, telling people to leave the country, to respect me without my respecting you.

  • Sandy

    I agree with Ms. Thomas desire to stand by her religious convictions and semi-applaud her for that. But in that case, the appropriate action on her part (certainly as a Christian) would have been to resign and find a job with an employer who is in a better position to allow employees to greet customers in a specific religious way. I am a christian too, but to force employers to make business decisions that may impact their business negatively is not what my brand of christianity is all about – we can all find better more direct ways to be a witness to others, and not leave a sour taste in the mouth of non-christians in doing so. So if the employer has a rotation of those answering the phone, the same customer might get a greeting of “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Hanakuh”, (and possibly any other type of religious-based greeting) depending on when they called and who answered. Ridiculous to require an employer to do that, that goes way beyond religious accommodation under Title VII. Frankly, I find many Christian Zealots to be those among the most hypocritical people I’ve ever met (to address an accusation I saw above that non-Christians are hypocritical for being given a paid holiday at Christmas – wow how ignorant is that). Christianity may be the religious choice of the majority of Americans, but in America we allow freedom of religion, and those who don’t like that should be the ones to find a place where only Christian beliefs are tolerated (to all those above who say if you don’t like Christian faith, get out of Dodge). Even God himself gave us free will.

  • WilsonE

    The number of comments on this article amazed me and so I felt a comment of my own was appropriate.
    If you were to give an employee instructions, would you expect them to do it? Yes. Would you also expect them to come to you with any problems, questions, or concerns regarding the instructions? Yes.
    Was that the case here? Did the employee go to her employer with her concerns? If so, how were they addressed? If not, why not? These are the questions that need to be asked.
    It’s not a matter of religion versus the workplace. As a business they can not be discriminatory towards their customers or their employees. Therefore, if the employee had a problem with the script, it should have been addressed as a real concern. If she chose to take it into her own hands that would be insubordination.
    Now, replacing one phrase for another that essentially means almost the same thing and is almost synonomous during that time of year does not seem like it should be that big of a deal. To call it insubordination gives it a lot more emphasis and clot then is called for, especially in this country that recognizes so many religions and holidays.
    I can see both points of view and believe the employer had every right to reprimand the employee for not following instructions. But I also think termination for this reason would be stretching it a bit. Alone it’s just not a strong enough reason. However, we do not have all the facts as I pointed out before. We do not know the employees history or any discussions that took place regarding the phone script.

  • HRguy

    This is quite easy folks and that is why it in on HR Blunders. The article says she requested to say Merry Christmas or NOT MENTION THE HOLIDAYS AT ALL. At that point the company should have let her exercise the later option and avoided this whole mess. Now they will have a huge legal battle on there hands regarding her first amendment rights.

  • alison

    Wow-the prejudice here is staggering! Forgetting all religious aspects, her boss gave her direction that she ignored. I worked for a restaurant during college and some of the stupid things we had to say during promotions were absurd and too long for a customer to wait through. Yet…it was the job so I did what I was told.
    For those who say things like “come back where you came from”…you scare me.
    *The Christians were not the first ones here, perhaps they should go back to their countries of origin if saying “Merry Christmas” is such an issue.
    *The non Christians who perhaps celebrate something else, or nothing at all did not all come here last week, last month, last year. My grandmother was an atheist, born in this country over 80 years ago. If she were still alive…where exactly should she go? (Dont say to H*LL…she didn’t believe in that!)
    *If you haven’t paid attention, there are a lot of people who dont take the day off paid (hypocrite or not). The movies, restaurants, retail stores have all started opening on Christmas day. And there are a lot of hourly employees who DONT get a paid day, who would probably want to work, but can’t because their place of employment is closed.

    Judge not, lest ye be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged. Hope you don’t get canned for being an intolerant HR manager.

  • Shyann

    As far as the Country is based on Christianity, and if you don’t like it leave. What will some of you do if people get their way and take God (Christianity) out of the courts completely, off of money, out of the National anthem, and the Pledge of Allegiance? Are you going to Go back to where your ancestors came from?

  • Settles

    I think Thomas said it best herself. She probably should have reframed from referencing the holidays at all and used a generic company greeting, rather than a Christmas greeting. Furthermore, unless there is clear business rationale for using a holiday greeting, perhaps company policy should be for employees to use a pleasant standard company reference greeting at all times. I mean, have holiday greetings been proven to generate incremental revenue in the vacation rental property industry?

  • mw

    From an HR perspective, she should have followed the directive of her employer (employees do serve at the will of the organization) provided it was legal, ethical and moral. As a Christian, I find the “holier than thou” attitude most irritating (after all, there are many branches of the Christian faith and who gets to decide which is the ‘true’ faith?) As a citizen of this planet, why should one human have the right to insist that one religion is correct and another isn’t? (After all, we can’t prove any of it; it is personal conviction, not fact) As far as this country being founded on Christian values, it was really founded on the blood and atrocities done to both Native North and Central Americans. (After all, they were living here when we dumped ourselves, and our european arrogance in the middle of their laps. And, when they objected, we committed genocide, intentionally gave them infected blankets, locked them up and disenfrancised them) Done is done and there is no going back, but to all of you who say, “Go back to where you came from, I suggest you lead the way!

  • Don Price

    If she failed to comply with the company’s instructions and disregarded her employers interest in favor of her own, it sounds like a valid termination. The lady should comply or leave. Having said that, if her employer bowed to the pressure of being ‘politically coorect’ and that was offensive to her, she didn’t need to work for him anyway and I say shame on him. I would not work for an organization that is scared to death of recognizing prayer and tries to keep God out of the workplace.

  • paul

    Again, he holiday (incidentally this is short for holy day) we celebrate on Dec. 25 is Christmas (Christ Mass). It is a holy day when Christians remember the birth of Christ. For centuries the Jews living in the US have heard “Merry Christmas” and they NEVER complained. It was not until the 1960’s when political correctness reared it ugly head that saying “Merry Christmas” became offensive. I say and greet callers with Merry Christmas up until Christmas then the generic Happy Holidays after Christmas. Frankly I am shocked to hear so many christians in this blog saying they don’t say “Merry Christmas.” It is our holiday (holy day) and we should be proud of it. How many non-Christian callers to your company have ever said “I am offended that you said Merry Christmas to me?” My guess would be none. So why not say Merry Christmas since “Jesus is the reason for the season” – if not, then go ahead and be a Scrooge and work on Christ-Mass day.

  • Rob

    WHY, would anyone be offended, by someone thinking enough of them to wish them blessings (no matter what religion they are). All religions believe in blessings of one type or another.

    I believe that the employer, should have reinterated what ” the company “, wanted to be said when answering the phone, and if she had a problem with that, for whatever reason, adapt, revise and re-execute. Not terminate.

    UNBELIEVABLE….What has happened to us as human beings? ..Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, whatever…
    Offensive used to mean saying “bad words, name calling”, now it is just words. Where does this stop, I am a Christian, and it is Merry Christmas to me, because I say it does NOT mean I am forcing it on you, it means my blessings and best wishes to you, no matter who or what religion you believe in. It is not like I am making you sit in a chair and listen to Bing Crosby, and Tennessee Ernie Ford sing religious songs, and Christmas songs for an hour while I have you chained to a chair. I do not hold what you or anyone else believes against them, nor should anyone else, that is what FREEDOM is. We are so busy trying to be ” Politically Correct “, we are losing site of so many other problems, and consuming ourselves with offending phrases of ” best wishes and blessing to you, that have been a part of America for decades ??

    What is next?

    “Thank you”, has to be changed to: I appreciate that (because it is to personal ?)
    ” Have a good morning “, has to be changed to ” Good Sunrise “, ( because it sounds like I am telling someone what to do ?)

    Where will it all stop, when will start caring about each other, and appreciating all the freedoms that we have? When it is too late?, and everyone has to get any conversation or statement pre-approved before saying anything.

    Think about it, as it is now, if you have an employee who has stolen, been insubordinant, and you fire them…when another employer calls to get a reference you can’t say the truth, you can’t say anything, for fear of being sued, by the person who caused themselves to be fired. So now the new employer has a problem to deal with.

    Sorry, but all of this really concerns me, and should you also.

  • Why some much anger? People, think of this with a HR attitude. I’d like to know what you all think from the legal perspective as HR professionals. There is no room for zealots in this profession. Whether we like it or not, employees have to quit when they want. If the employer did something illegal, legal action is absolutely warranted. Otherwise, the courts do not involve themselves in immoral or amoral behavior. That is left to the individual to decide on.

  • Brenda

    I am a christian, And i think what Thoma Done was great, We need to recognize Christmas as a
    special holiday Jesus Birthday. But so many have taken Jesus out of everything. I think her employer
    wasn’t fair, And needs to Applogize for being unfair.

  • HR Dude

    Here, here, Sam. We live in a diverse world. In biblical times, the apostles lived in a diverse world. You can see it in the way the apostles wrote their letters. They spoke in a way that appropriately communicated what they wanted to say in the region they happened to be in. Likewise, we have to communicate in a way that is in understanding to others. As Christians, we are commanded to submit to authority. However, Christians should also stand up for what they believe in and not be “conformers” of the world. That said, take your Christian values that you strongly present here to the polls, state legislature, etc. It is there where the “political correctness” stops. On the job, Christ would want us to submit to the authority given to us (our boss). Out side of the job, you can go on your personal campaign. By disregarding the boss’ directions (within reason, of course), you are discrediting the Christian faith and causing more people to run from the faith than run to it.

    This case was a case of insubordination and possibly could have caused a loss in revenue from potential patrons. It’s about sensitivity to other cultures, backgrounds, etc. that we, HR people, must exhibit and lead others to exhibit in the workplace.

  • Dwight

    We all need to be rational and put our faith aside. The employer did absolutely nothing wrong. Happy Holidays is a benign statement that would not offend a reasonable person. Also, someone stated that we have the freedom of speech in this country earlier in the thread. What an absurd statement in the realm of HR. Organizations look upon us to be the voice of reason and I’m not seeing alot of that is in this thread.

  • DLG

    OMG people… no wonder HR people have a bad reputation. The fact of the matter is that when we are at work we must respect all people and all faiths – AND be “politically correct”. When you’re at home, say whatever you please. I find it amazing that not one person has mentioned the fact that there are Christians who do not celebrate Christmas on December 25th, but go by the Julian calendar and celebrate Christmas on January 7th. What if those people said Merry Christmas to all you Christians on January 7th? Would that offend you?? They value Christianity as much as those who celebrate Christmas on December 25th. Are we offending them as well? We can’t possibly oblige everyone, but the best solution to the faith-based people is the “Happy Holidays” greeting or nothing at all. We must respect all faiths and “Happy Holidays” does not belittle anyone’s faith and includes all people. She was insubordinate and her rights were not violated. She can now say “Merry Christmas” all she wants while she waits in the unemployment line.

  • Vickie

    I suspect Thomas’ boss will easily be able to support his claim that she was fired for other reasons. Anyone who insists on saying “Merry Christmas”, which is narrowly focused, instead of “Happy Holidays”, which is open hearted, is probably difficult to work with, not to mention insubordinate on other issues.

    If people can get this worked up on a simple greeting, do we have any hope finding peace in this world between religions and cultures?

  • Tom

    As an HR professional, this seems like a cut and dry case of insubordination. As an American, it’s another example of the whiny, easily offended malcontents we’ve all become. People are offended at the drop of a hat. If you are a Christian and you are offended by “Happy Holidays,” then I feel sorry for you. If you’re not a Christian and you’re offended by “Merry Christmas,” then I feel sorry for you. If you’re an aethiest, then you’re probably feeling pretty balanced and sane. And if you’re God, you must have a hell of a sense of humor….

  • Brenda

    JD was wondering how we got to the position that ones persons rights was above anothers – you can thank the ACLU. They lie and deceive to get what they want. A pregnant woman wanting a divorce from her husband gave us … abortion Roe v Wade.

    For those who really believe the US Constitution mentions anything about separation of church and state… read it again. It’s not in there. Instead it was a letter from Thomas Jefferson confirming that the US won’t have a “church”, like they do in England, the Church of England. You can thank the ACLU for this too. Do you really have to wonder why people don’t take responsibility for their own actions, why there are so many school killings, kids droping out of school, corruption in the world, etc… If you take God out, than perhaps God will leave us. Not something I want. I’m a christian.

    Of course, the media will never report this, because they usually only report they news that they want to report (which is usually negative news). They like to brainwash peoples minds. If you say the same old thing over and over – than it must be true – right? Not really if you know the facts.

    Regarding free speech – in the private sector / privately own organizations – don’t have free speech rights like there are in the public / governmental jobs.

  • Paul

    As much as I hate it, because of the nature of the industry that Ms. Thomas was working in, “Happy Holidays” was an appropriate greeting. Besides, if she knew her history, by saying “happy holidays”, she is wishing them “happy holy days”.

    I don’t direct my staff to use any specific greeting over the Christmas season, except when they know the person they are greeting, then they use which ever is appropriate. Hire people with the discernment to know not to wish a “Merry Christmas” to someone that just wished them “Happy Chanukah”, and you won’t ever have problems.

  • Mrs.Moore

    What the lawyer, Thomas Harper, said makes a lot of sense to me. My first thought was that her claim was a little rediculous and sounded more like insubbordination rather than descrimination. A script was written for her and she refused to follow it. She used her religion as her reason for not following directions. I too am a Christian and have yet to come across somehting that demands that Christians say Merry Christmas during the Christmas Season. I don’t think that she has a valid case.

  • SPC

    I’m just going to put this out there… I think all religions are absolutely ridiculous. However, if people want to believe in magical mumbo-jumbo, so be it. As long as it doesn’t affect me directly, which so far, it hasn’t, other than maybe some slight annoyance. As far as M.C v. H.H. Yeah… don’t care. You know though, the one time I witnessed someone get upset about being greeted by “Merry Christmas”, the upset person was a christian! A Jehova’s Witness, to be exact. Boy, was that guy pissed off at his greeter. “I don’t celebrate Chrismas! I’m a Jehova’s Witness!” He probably would have been angry at any sort of holiday greeting, but he totally blew up. Anyway, Ms. Thomas’s employer was well within his rights to fire her for insubordination. There was a script. If she felt it infringed on her religion, then she should have spoken to him about it and I’m sure they could have come to some sort of compromise to leave any sort of holiday greeting out of the script. Now, if anyone tells me to go back to where I came from… uhhh, I still live in the town in which I was born 30 years ago, which my (anglo-saxon, european, christian) ancestors helped settle. Which just so happens to be in the middle of right-wing, redder than red, mormonville, Utah.

  • Sharon

    If she is a person that is representing a company by answering the phone, then she should be answering the phone in a manner that is approved by her company. She is not promoting her religion, she is promoting her company. I am a Christian and not being an offense to anyone is part of Christianity. If answering the phone saying, “Merry Chrisitmas” offends someone, she shouldn’t be saying it. She is not giving witness to her faith by answering a call from a customer, she is promoting the company she is working for. The company was not asking her to wish them a “Happy Hanukkah”, they are asking to wish them a “Happy Holiday” . This can be taken as Christmas, Hannukkah, Quanza or any other holiday. Again, she is a representing her company, not her Christianity when answering the phone for her company.

  • Karen

    I am a Christian and I am a HR professional. As I read the comments I had to remind myself that I was reading a HR site and not FACEBOOK or MySpace or some other site. This is an employment issue, and if the request from your supervisor or anyone else in charge at your place of employment does not violate the law, then any action contrary to what you have been asked to do is insubordination. I really do not believe God cares if we say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. Jesus was inclusive – WWJD, there is nothing in this situation that should cause righteous indignation, there is no sin, etc. So from a professional and biblical basis the refusal to perform as you have been asked is way off base. We should all stop saying we are Christians (Christ like) and start acting like Christians.

  • Jenny

    She said she wanted to say “Merry Christmas” or nothing at all. So why didn’t she just say nothing at all? It sounds like she wanted to prove a point and was being insubordinate. I am a Christian and don’t mind “Happy Holidays”. Some of the HR professionals on this website are mean spirited and don’t sound like very good Christians. My pet peve – people who write “Merry Xmas” and don’t include the most important part of the word- Christ!

  • Robin

    As I scroll down and look at some of these responses, I feel the HR departments are in BIG TROUBLE. There are so many people here that need to take refresher courses on the laws regarding employment, etc. (whether you like them or not).

    I am a Christian and I believe that all people should be treated with respect whether or not I believe in their religious practices. I also have a responsibility to the company I work for and the employees of the company. I have no problem with Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas. As I sat in Church one day I did hear the Priest mention that we need to stop the Happy Holidays nonsense and start with the Merry Christmas. I think the pressures being put on us from church are making people forget what the Bible and it’s teachings stand for. I was, quite frankly, offended while I sat in church by the Priests comments.

    I am a Director of H.R. and believe in tolerance, understanding and caring about other human beings while still following the company rules and legalities of the work place.

    Shame on some of you for your intolerances and bigoted responses. You should not be in HR whatsoever and you are a liability on your employer and beliefs.

  • CYD

    When I greet people when I am out and about I say Merry Christmas because that is my belief. I work for a public school district and we are not even allowed a Christmas tree or any other religious items in our office that could be viewed by the public. I do not like it but I do not own the business, the government does. If the dress code was casual attire only on Friday’s I would have to comply since those are the rules of the business. If you are so affended by the policys of your business, get into another one. Rules are everywhere and until you are the boss you have to follow them.

  • From all of this disrespect and intolerance for others I would have to guess that disrespect and intolerance must be a Christian thing (or at least preached by some sects of Christianity). After all, Jesus was Jewish (his given name was Joshua ben-Miriam; Jesus is Greak for Joshua) and was preaching as a Jew, as were the disciples.

    As for Ms. Thomas, I again stand by my thought that she was insubordinate. While at work, she was a representative of the company, not her religion. Her supervisor (company) asked all of thier employees, not just Ms. Thomas, to be respectful of all their customers. She did not follow company policy. I don’t see why any other discusion is needed beyond asking if she was given a warning, offered training, or any other accomodation was asked for or offered.

  • Allen

    Why could she not answer the phone as she normally does on any other business day. After all, this is a business. I think the employer was wrong in requiring that she answer the phone with “Happy Holidays.” Surely he knew that someone would be offended. She, on the other hand, was wrong for not following instructions, or at least offering an alternative. I think she will lose her law suit. Man, have we ever forgotten what Christmas is about. Do we remember Christ’s birth or are we caught up in the “keep the economy going by buying” and all this “political correctness” junk. Cynthia and Judy – get some anger management training. I agree, if you are in HR, you are in the wrong profession.

  • Martin

    I have to think of a humorous headline years ago on The Onion website that showed the 9/11 hijackers in hell, unpleasantly surprised to learn they aren’t getting their reward virgins or whatnot after all.

    Zealots are bad all around, and the intolerance spewed herein by so-called Christians has to make Jesus wince. I think they’ll learn that this is not what God intended when they reach their destination in the afterlife…if there is one, that is.

    And to the white-hooded among you who blame “illegals and immigrants” for the term Happy Holidays — really? Do ya know how stupid you sound? I hope you’re using a pseudonym.

    Ed and Kevin, you guys rock, both for your common sense and logic! Common sense is not so common…

  • Kerri Hartman

    I wonder where “majority rule” went. Perhaps there should be an offense at “Happy New Year” because some cultures don’t celebrate the new year at the same time we do. How about Independence Day? Will I insult someone from the UK just because our forefathers (forepeople, for the PC crowd) fought to be independent of tyranny? Since when did we become “minority ruled?” Our American culture is slowly being eaten away by small groups of others who crow loudly any time we want to do something that is either uniquely American or has become an important part of our culture.

    For our part, our receptionist asked if she could greet callers with “Merry Christmas.” After some thought, I said yes, with the caveat that if anyone expresses concern that I should be notified. We received no negative feedback from her greeting, but the positive responses were overwhelming. Gee, we might be on to something!

    Was Thomas’s action terminable? By directly refusing to follow a rule, it was worthy of discipline, but in my opinion, if it was a first offense, not terminable. While the article does not elaborate, I sense something else is amiss to which we are not privy.

  • Sam

    Ed, I did not read every line of every comment (no time in this office for that) and by the time I got to your posting about Christian people being angry and self-centered, I was numb with disbelief. If I read it out of context, I apologize.This whole topic grieves me to the core, as do any of the other currently debatable “correctness” issues.

    If people were raised with any concern for their fellow man (love thy neighbor,as thyself) then everyone treats everyone like a person…with respect, even though they may disagree with their ways, beliefs, lifestyle, etc. And, of course, if a person is a Christian, you pray for the will of God to be done in the lives of all people. Thy will, not mine, be done.

    Doesn’t anyone see how tragic it is that we have come to the point where saying “Merry Christmas” is grounds for a lawsuit? And by the way, I wouldn’t fire Ms. Thomas and the phone would not be answered with a Christmas or holiday reference at all. And that’s because the generic wish is as offensive to some, as the specific wish is said to be to others. We don’t answer the phone that way in our company and we don’t send out cards but, depending on the customer or vendor we talk to, may extend our choice of holiday or Christmas greetings individually, at our discretion.

    People, please realize that these little issues are the threads of bad things to come. And one day, people on both sides of the argument, are going to find themselves involved in or witnessing, some situation and will inevitably ask themselves…”how did this happen?”

  • ED

    That’s OK Sam –

    Some of the comments are very hateful and some are highly ignorant and more of a violation of Title VII issues than this case itslef.

  • Indypoint O’View

    As we continue to find ways to remove ‘one nation under God’ from our everyday lives, I find the fact that the employer dismissing Thomas for saying Merry Christmas on her message when that is the holiday both she AND the employer get paid 100% to observe. Whether or not Thomas is a Christian is irrelevant in this case. What if Kwanzaa or Hannukah were the paid holiday here? Would she lose her job for saying Happy Hannukah or Happy Kwanzaa or Happy Eid? What if we starting taking the official names out of holidays, like Christ is taken out of Christmas. What if we referred to the Jewish New Year X-Hohana or Yom X? Keep the holiday as is, no harm was done, and firing an employee over offending someone over a peaceful religion is ridiculous. Philips sounds like a class A gerk to work for, and perhaps his lack of humaneness toward an employee will bite him where it counts. Let’s hope he winds up in unemployment where he belongs. Merry Christmas has been said for 2000 years, when does this country or the vast minority who do not celebrate it get so scared of a peaceful message. Pretty soon, it will be taboo to say hello or shalom or salaam. Enough. Political correctiveness needs to die, call a spade a spade and you will understand diverse religious tolerance!

  • Jennifer

    I feel it’s important to state that I celebrate Christmas and am a white American born female. I just happen to agree with Sharon (above). The employee is in a customer service position and she should know that she is representing the company she works for, not herself or her own religion. I do not think this is a moral issue or even a personal one due to the fact that the employer and his company have the right to create the company image through the way they do business. How they treat their customers is apart of that and how they address certain issues such as this one is important. If a business only solicits to a certain people group they are limiting their services and potential assets and limiting the size of their customer base. Retail solicits to anyone and should not be limited in the way she is suggesting and other some people who have replied to this article on this site. She was asked to keep to the script and she did not, on her own accord. On the issue of why she was actually fired: IF in fact she was fired for not keeping to the script, I would think the employer would have to prove some sort of loss in revenue or customer complaints for her actions. IF she was not fired for not keeping to the script then the employer should have proof (employee file) of her subodination and the real reason’s why she was let go. If this company is a reputable one they will have this on file with their HR department and will have nothing to fear if taken to court over the issue.

    I can not believe that people think of these types of incidents as immoral or having to do with values and religion because what the company was asking of it’s employees was not illegal, immoral, degrating or discrimination. IF the employee felt this way she could have asked for a different schedule or be taken off answering phones or be re-positioned in another part of the company during the Christmas season. If she did not express this discomfort to her employer and took it upon herself to handle the situation her way, the employer would not have known of her discomfort and sounds like they probably had grounds to fire her due to something else anyway. How sad it is that people have to make everything a huge issue of race, color, religion (and the list goes on) for any reason they can come up with. Yes, this is America and if people have not noticed we are a young nation that was built on the backs of immigrants and are virtually nothing but a large melting pot of all kinds of cultures from all over the world and it has been this way since America was discovered.

  • Karyn

    I think saying “Merry Christmas” should not be perceived as negative. It doesn’t imply “Horrible Hanukkah.” There’s no negative connotation. But I think if Ms. Thomas would not be uspet if the person next to her is saying “Hanukkah Blessings,” then she has a point. If she simply wants to say her Christmas greeting, then the point is skewed and her rationale has faults.

  • Pat

    I’m Jewish and I am not offended by”Merry Christmas” and I don’t think anyone else really is either so long as no offense is intended. It’s a wonderful holiday celebrated by the vast majority of my fellow citizens, and I also get a day off! I also think that people seem to be increasingly choosing to be “offended” beause it has become an effective PC racket (whether the “offended” person realizes it or not) and maybe that’s what gets some Christians riled up. I also think it’s possible, however, to use religious convictions to justify behavior (e.g.: intentionally giving offense) that really isn’t in the spirit of Christmas, and how some secularists impose mandatory PC greetings like “Happy Holidays” to intentionally give offense to Christians. These are unfortunately the times we live in. I do my small part to fight against it by generally wishing people Merry Christmas unless I know that they are not Christians. However, if I’m on company time and my employer has a policy, I have to follow that policy. If she knowingly violated her employer’s policy then she shouldn’t complain about the consequences. She can wish me Merry Christmas anytime–so long as it’s on her own time.

  • Patrice

    OK, I do not usually weigh in on these discusions but the historical inaccuracies and the intolerance of some of the answers have led me to overcome my normal reticence. Much of the following information is from Wikipedia:
    The Bill of Rights is the name by which the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution are known.[1] They were introduced by James Madison to the First United States Congress in 1789 as a series of constitutional amendments, and came into effect on December 15, 1791, when they had been ratified by three-fourths of the States. The First Amendment is called the Establishment Clause, Free Exercise Clause; freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly; right to petition:
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The term “separation of church and state” is a legal and political principle derived from the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and is based on a letter written by Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson was the main proponent of the Bill of Rights.[2] Jefferson believed in the existence of a Supreme Being who was the creator and sustainer of the universe and the ultimate ground of being, but this was not the triune deity of orthodox Christianity at that time. His beleifs were more in line with the Unitarian Christians. Unitarianism as a theology is the belief in the single personality of God, in contrast to the doctrine of the Trinity (three persons in one God).[1] It is the philosophy upon which the modern Unitarian movement was based, and, according to its proponents, is the original form of Christianity. Unitarian Christians believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ, as found in the New Testament and other early Christian writings, and hold him up as an exemplar. Adhering to strict monotheism, they maintain that Jesus was a great man and a prophet of God, perhaps even a supernatural being, but not God himself. Unitarians believe in the moral authority, but not necessarily the divinity, of Jesus.

    The Principles and purposes of the Unitarian Universalist Association, which was the result of the joining of many of the Unitarian and Universalist congregations, are:
    “We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote”
    The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
    Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
    Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
    A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
    The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
    The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
    Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

    Sounds a lot like the U.S. Constitution in many ways, don’t you think?

    Now – to the case at hand: I agree with several of the comments made above that we need more information re the employee’s past performance and disciplinary history, why the EEOC has taken on the employee’s claim, and how the termination was conducted – was it after a series of progressive disciplinary steps with the employee having the opportunity to change her behavior, etc. The bottom line is that she was asked to follow a script that other employees were asked to use, that “Happy Holidays” is a generic and generally used and accepted greeting, and that an employer has the right to expect that employees will follow directions on how to do their jobs that are not illegal, unethical, unsafe, or immoral. I am not aware of any religion that characterizes the greeting “Happy Holidays” as either blasphemy or a sin. The employee in this case worked directly with the public, in its many variations, in a customer service capacity, but I would argue that the job fit was not a good one. I think the telling issue here will be how the termination was accomplished and whether just cause was established and if any of her rights were violated in the process. There – now I feel better! Thanks.

  • Lori

    What offensive, is that we are taking away the fundamental reason we even have a holiday…It is because of the birth of Christ, which according to Christian faith, His birth and death represent an atonement for the sins of Christians and salvation.

    I happen to have a lot of Jewish and Muslims friends who greet me with “Merry Christmas” They understand, although they do not share this belief that that for a faith filled Christian person, Christ has to be exhaled. In addition, I wish my friends of a different faith traditional greeting on holidays that they celebrate and hold dear to them…

    However, as an employee you have to respect the wishes of your employer. I don’t feel this in any way negates your faith or takes anything away. If you want to put a religious spin on it…The bible teaches that we must submit to our master (bosses and persons of authority) and follow their instructions. I don’t believe that Tonia was being deliberately insubordinate, but not following a direct order from her employer does make her insubordinate. I feel the employer actions were extreme and that termination was not warrant. However, I do not believe she will prevail in her EEO case.

  • Maria

    (j) The term “religion” includes all aspects of religious observance and
    practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is
    unable to reasonably accommodate to an employee’s or prospective
    employee’s religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the
    conduct of the employer’s business.

    Piper I guess no one read your comment 🙂 I did and you are right.

    I think we are here to do a job and do it well. As HR Mgr or whatever we are we have to remember that the Costumer are our #1, thanks to them we have a job. So, next time just say Happy shopping because that is what December is about, spending and going crazy in the store’s. For me Chritmas is everyday, specially when I can help someone to keep a job and if I cant, help them to find the way 🙂 Phillipians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. And Tonia, she found the way to a new Job. Know that was quick 🙂

  • Stacy

    Are you people all at work right now? Because if you are, you must have a really long lunch hour…

  • Stan

    Political correctness has gone too far in our society to the point we are tripping over ourselves. The greeting “Merry Christmas” is simply that — a holiday greeting — nothing more. Christmas is an actual holiday and to wish someone a merry one is no different than saying “Happy New Year” a week later. Companies and individuals waste too much time on silly items like this that simply do not matter. People that get their panties in a wad over an age old holiday greeting need to move back under the rock they came from. I would love to see the courts rule that politely wishing someone a “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Easter”, “Happy Hannukah” (or whatever) is simply a holiday greeting and is a human right that can never be grounds for disciplinary action. That may be the only way to put an end to the nonsense.

  • JAS

    When we put all of the subjectives pertaining to personal religious beliefs aside, this entire issue boils down to a few very simple HR tennants. The position involved being the telephone face of the company. Were her greeting instructions clear? Yes, they were scripted. Was the scripted greeting part of her duties? It would appear that was the case. Was she given corrective instruction after deviating from her written script? It would certainly appear so. Did she refuse to follow the written instruction (script). Yes, by her own statement. She committed insubordination. Was prior correction or discipline documented? We don’t know, but assuming it was, she essentially fired herself with her insubordination.

    Many of us hold strong convictions and religious beliefs. However, when employed in a position of direct customer or client contact, it is our job to reflect the mission of the company which is paying us. One would hope that those personal and professional objectives are compatible. When they are not, we must decide whether we wish to maintain that employment and act accordingly. This is about maturity in the workplace and the understanding that no one is “entitled” to employment by any given company when we fail to follow employment rules.

    One would hope that this case does not proceed to court to further waste time and money.

  • Piper

    My gosh, I cannot see how this discussion is not just wearing everyone out. I learned a long time ago that you cannot “convince” someone to believe what you believe. I used to be one of those people who hated Christians because I thought they were intellectually void and so judgmental. It took hanging around some incredible, loving, Christian people who never said a word to me about their faith but had such a peace about them to get me to even want to go check it out. I read everything I could get my hands on because I wanted to know the truth. I love authors like Lee Strobel and C.S. Lewis, and I really had to get to a point where I bought into Christianity from an intellectual perspective before I was open to it. It makes me SO sad on here when either: (i) Christians act more religious than Christian; and (ii) when non-Christians lump us all together like everyone who is Christian is like that. I sincerely believe that the media and a few bad apples have created this false impression of Christians, and it has not only divided us but it has really turned people away from God. My life has taken a 180 degree turn for the better since I became a Christian, and I really struggle to not get in peoples’ face and tell them all about it because I know how resistant I was to it way back when. But I can promise you that it comes from a place of love and goodness — I want them to experience the joy I have because I genuinely believe it will change their lives. Instead, I know it is better to just love them well and …someday … maybe they will want to know more about me and my walk.

    Ok, enough said about that… Here is how an employee makes a prima facie case of religious discrimination:

    The prima facie case for discriminatory discharge based on a plaintiff’s religious practices is established by showing: (1) the practices are religious in nature; (2) the plaintiff called the religious practices to the employer’s attention; and (3) the religious practices were the basis of the plaintiff’s discharge).

    At the end of the day, this will be the question for the jury…. Most of you are about half right …. She was insubordinate per se, but was she “allowed” to be (for lack of a better phrase) because to do otherwise would be a violation of her Title VII rights. My legal opinion is no … requiring her to say “Happy Holidays” probably does not violate her religious beliefs. In my opinion, was firing her kind of harsh? Yes. Was she also being petty? Yes. But if you actually read the law carefully, this is not as cut and dried as it may seem.

  • Bernie

    Thia whole discussion is scary. It’s hard to read so much hate and ignorance being vented. This country was founded on FREEDOM, not Christian beliefs. Freedom of religion, freedom to practice and share different beliefs. We don’t tell people “who chosed” to come to our country to leave if they celebrate a different holiday.
    As a nurse I am always sensitive to other peoples beliefs. If I’m not sure I say Happy Holidays and especially if I know my client is Jewish or even atheist. Our company does not send out Christmas cards, we send out warm Happy Holiday, peaceful New Year style cards.
    I am a Christian I live out my faith by how I treat people, how I live my life. I don’t force my beliefs down other peoples throats. If you want to do that in your private life, fine. However, work is work.
    As people who deal with the public it is our responsibility to represent our employers and company in a respectful and courteous way to everyone.
    No one asked this woman to give up her beliefs, only to respect others beliefs also. I don’t tell patients I agree with beliefs they state when I don’t, I allow them to express their ideas yes but I don’t state agreement nor do I argue with them. I try to just move to another topic.
    I think she was wrong not to follow an explict direction given by her employer and I think she’ll lose.

  • I like Merry Christmas, it sounds more festive. But, at my workplace, we generally use Happy Holidays because of the many nationalities we have employed with us.

  • Shannon

    She should have been allowed to not use a greeting. END OF STORY! If you don’t know what to say, do not say a word! Should she have been fired? No, the company and her were in the wrong. She didn’t respect the policy, he didn’t respect her beliefs. Both to get a slap on the wrist, end of story!

  • JVN

    Piper – well said. And this IS quite the exhausting discussion. On that note, I’m bowing out. Too much work to do. 🙂

  • Maria

    Same here Have a safe weekend everyone…. 🙂

  • Brenda Miller

    While I do understand and agree with certain points from both sides of this issue, I do have to occasionally remind myself about the 1st Ammendment. Freedom of Religion, Press and Expression. Too many times people take so many things out of context and are so eager to accuse or preach on discrimination, etc. that it just becomes frustrating. We all know that we are all living, breathing human beings, regardless of race, color or creed. Each entitled to our own beliefs and values and none of them being any superior over any other. That’s what is so great about living in the USA, DIVERSITY! I’ve been in the hospitality for many many years now and I have had guests ask why I don’t address them with Merry Christmas and and with my reply they usually understand. So regarding the 1st Amendment, why would there be a reason for anything to have be politically correct? If I respect someone elses’ individuality, beliefs and values then I shouldn’t be offended if someone says to me Merry Christmas, Happy Hannakah or whatever. We all should be focusing on uniting our strengths and ponder over more important things such as the state of our economy, the homeless, the jobless, our men and women serving overseas, etc. Hmmmmm, kind of makes the problem of being politically correct somewhat less important. Now I’ll get off my soap box and say that based on our societies present accepted social behaviors, I feel that the owner while trying to provide a personable greeting, may be merely trying to respect and not offend any of his guests and clients by being generalized with his greeting on the phone. As far as making it clear to the ex-employee, I’m not sure. If Happy Holidays is in the scripted text of what she was to use when answering the phone, then to me that’s pretty clear.

  • JudyP

    paul says “Frankly I am shocked to hear so many christians in this blog saying they don’t say “Merry Christmas.” It is our holiday (holy day) and we should be proud of it. ”

    Are you proud of your birthday? Do you wish others Happy Birthday on your birthday? My point is that if Christians celebrate Christ’s birth, they shouldn’t ram it down the throat of others who do not celebrate. ..and they certainly shouldn’t ram it down the throat of their company’s customers when explicitly given instructions not to. Our beliefs are between each of us and God and we are told to share our beliefs with LOVE. Christians are expressly told to avoid doing a thing that offends another, even if you’re convinced that doing that thing is ok. A Christian’s actions should be laced with love, not with a desire to assert one’s own rights.

  • ED

    JudyP –

    Youn are so right.

  • Emily

    There are a lot of shocking things in this discussion, one of them is the deplorable grammar and spelling all over the place! I believe some non-professionals must have crashed this discussion!

  • ED

    Actually – just keeping it short by not proof reading.

  • cjackson

    I am a Christian and I do say Merry Christmas when and where appropriate (anywhere outside of work).

  • Emily

    Not from you, Ed, you are among the most reasonable and professional sounding on here! 🙂

    Also, what may be of interest to some is “Xmas” is not as bad as it seems. I used to cringe when I saw it until I learned from my priest it is not a 20th century shortening intended to take Christ out of Christmas, but actually has its roots in early Christianity/Greek, and stands for Christ.

    The problem for peace throughout most of the world is no one knows their own history…

  • Robin


    While I am a Professional are you insinuating that you are a Professional??….. at the same time knocking non-professional working people as people that have deplorable grammer and spelling?? Do only Professionals have good grammar and spelling? Boy oh boy……. this is shocking!!!!

  • Shyann

    Again, you are all forgetting that you don’t have the whole story, and I am certain this is not the sole reason she got fired. There is most likely way more to this story, and the fact that she was being insubordinate on this occasion is the straw the broke the camels back. She prob just took that little bit and decided to sue.

    I would hope an employer would not fire an employee for that being their first offense.

  • Emily

    Robin:: Talk about people reading too much into stuff! Clearly some comments above are made by people who are not in the profession of Human Rescources, which this is supposed to be a forum for and about. And yes, proper spelling and grammAr is a part of that role in a company.

  • CA

    I am a christian and am not offended to hear “Happy Holidays.” For most, I don’t think they even stop to think about it’s meaning. If I say “Happy Holidays,” I mean no offense. That does not mean that I am trying to leave Christ out of the holiday. I would much rather hear Happy Holidays, than Seasons Greetings.

    I think the real issue is if there were any previous problems with her performance. If not, then to terminate her because of Merry Christmas over Happy Holidays is to severe. I have always wondered how anyone could be offended over something that they do not believe in. If you don’t believe in God, then why be offended if you hear his name are required to say it. Words are meaningless today anyway. It is our christian duty to lead by example. Love as Christ loved.

  • Robin


    Apparently what I just wrote flew over your head. This whole discussion is just too much. We all know that grammar and spelling is part of most non-exempt, exempt (HR and non-HR) positions. It just seems people keep making excuses for their comments and that because we are in HR it’s okay to make them.

    Actually, I loved your comments above and actually agree with them. It’s just the last comment, while maybe I am reading too much into it other HR professionals/non-professionals trying to learn something from this forum might be offended, that’s all.

    Not that 1/2 the comments loaded onto this sight isn’t offensive 🙂

    Have a good weekend……. Robin 🙂

  • Maria

    Emily: you mention “Grammar” what about the “deficit” we are in Thanks to our goverment 🙁 What do you call that “deplorable accounting” Everyone here has a point. Piper make’s more sense remember she study law we just pass thru it 🙂 By the way me Ingles is not the best but I get the job done and love it 🙂

    Sorry for getting out of the subject. Tonia is happy she got a job. She just misses the extra cash.

  • Lajgirl

    The phrase Happy Holidays is meant as a verbal gift with good intention. There is nothing legally wrong with asking an employee t say it as part of a phone greeting. This employee decided to fight a personal, religious argument with society at her employer’s expense and she simply does not have the right to do this. She was terminated for cause (insubordination) and that as they say, is that.

    What suprises me is how many HR “Professionals” would allow this to happen in the workplace. It is inappropriate behavior and as part of the management of a company, it is the HR department’s job to support the goals of the company and not to become social activists arguing for the non-legal rights of employees based on our personal beliefs.

    Scary stuff guys!!

  • ED

    Scarry Indeed!

  • Maria

    Laj and ED if you are in Florida anything can happend. Half of the employees dont take the time to study their employee handbook. They probably dont understand the word: insubordination.

  • ED

    Wish it were Florida –

    Its Wisconsin and we are getting 4-6 inches of snow and then it is going to get chilly. High temps from -5 to 0.

  • Robin

    I am in Connecticut and we are supposed to be getting 3-5 inches along the shore. I love snow on the weekends.

    But my Florida vacation is already planeed, can’t wait until March

  • Maria

    Welcome to Florida…. Is a nice state BUT 🙂 dont get offended if someone are not polite, and look at you like you crazy 🙂 is just the way SOME people are 🙂

    Sorry for getting out of the subject 🙂

  • ED

    Same goes for you –

  • Rick

    I think we have all seen enough court case results to know that as long as the employer documented everything they are ok. She obviously was insubordinate to the wishes of her employer, but without documentation of the actions they took to resolve the issue, I suspect that she will win. I have not seen many cases that ruled in favor of the employer, unless they had great documentation, and even that is not a guarantee that you will win your case.

    God Bless everyone and have a great weekend.

  • John

    It seems that many of the so called “HR professionals” on this board who are also “Christians” keep insisting that the US was founded on Christianity. They insist to “check” the history books. Well let’s do just that. The US was founded by people who were escaping religious persecution in England. These same “Christians” forgot why they left England and then murdered, raped and enslaved the Native Americans who weren’t Christian. Let’s also not forget the slaves that were then brought over by these same “Christians” and how women and blacks were not considered to be “voting citizens”. Amazing how these professionals in HR and supposed “Christians” think they and they themselves have the “truth” and “right” to have values and beliefs that are above all others….Christians uber Alles????

  • Kay

    The employer gave her a script. She should abide by it as long as it is not illegal. Her personal religious preferences should be kept out of the workplace. Now, if it was a “mistake” that she said Merry Christmas once or twice in error, she should have been reprimanded. However, openly disobeying the directive is insubordination. Fact. No question about it!

    Now, when it comes to all of those “Christians” who say this nation was founded on god, then they should take a look back at the founding fathers and ALL of their beliefs. Does no one realize that the Constitution intentionally left out the mention of god? Has anyone read Jefferson’s writings? Does no one realize that the Pledge of Allegiance was written WITHOUT the words “under god” in it, but that Eisenhower decided to add it in? I, personally, would be offended if the president or any other person decided to edit my work on a whim!

    And, when it comes to getting paid for a “christian” holiday, there really is usually no choice in the matter. Businesses close that day. Plus, how many “christians” are running off to church each xmas day? Sure, there are some that go, but for the most part, the day is spent with family and honoring Santa! The old gifts of the magi days are gone. People used to knit sweaters and give fruit and nuts. Santa is the one that has been generating the holiday spending.

    People, use your brains. Use reason. Use facts.

  • Brenda

    Why don’t you do a little more research before you think you know everything about our founding fathers. Perhaps you need to use the older, more accurate, materials, (example-school books printing that the War of 1812 started in 1814) can’t believe everything you read once.

  • Anita

    In the dialog provided it appears the employee accepted a position with a provided script. If the employee had a problem with the script it should have been discussed with a superior. If an option of greetings was given as a resolution – the employee has a decision for that position.

  • Forist

    The responses for this case surely indicate to me that people have lost sight of the question. We seems to arquing about the holiday and those that celebrate it versus those that do not. The question is did Ms Thomas disobey a direct request to answer the phone using a specific set of words? It has nothing to do with her going to church, or the fact that this country was founded under Christain doctrine. Did she disobey? Yes or NO. If yes she is insubordinate. Is being fired for saying Merry Christmas vs Happy Holidays within reason. No. It sounds more like an over-reaction.

  • Emily

    Robin: I had agreed with you above as well. 🙂 And I hadn’t intended to insult, just point out that a lot of posts couldn’t have possibly been written by people from an HR department or perspective (if so, as Lajgirl said, very scary stuff!). But good point that HR needs to be inclusive of all workers & take different perspectives into consideration, and I am sorry if I came off elitist or whatever.

    I guess we’ll have to see how this all turns out. I hope the employer kept great documentation, and it should be a reminder to all of us that proper paperwork can be a priceless asset.

  • MC

    You are correct. The question is whether she was insubordinate and I say that she was because she should have followed the directives of her supervisor (company’s expectatons). Should she have been fired?…not unless it was warranted due to prior infractions.

  • Forist

    MC, you raise a good point. Was it warranted? Let’s assume for discussion sake that her employer failed to document prior infractions? They claim insubordination was the reason for discharge however, is there documentation to support it? If not then we have to question the justification for seperation versus suspension? A single minor disobedience is hardly cause for discharge.

  • Brenda

    I agree with Forist and MC.

  • Marie

    The employee has the right to say Merry Christmas or exclude saying anything at all. She does not have to violate her Christian right in order to appease the “many”.

  • ED

    Marie –

    She does not have the right to answer her company telephone in any manner that she see fit.

  • Marie

    I don’t recall saying she can say anything she sees fit, but when it’s Christmas, you can legally say Merry Christmas, and the odd’s are that she wins her case. If her boss specifically asks that she not say Merry Christmas, then addressing no holiday phrase would have been the better option to avoid insubordination.

  • ED

    What is the statute the gives her the legal right to deviate from her script?

  • Marie

    I’m sure we didn’t get the whole story, but it seems logical to me that if she had gone to her supervisor and explained that she was offended by saying “Happy Holiday’s” that the supervisor would have or should have allowed her to say nothing. But, provided her supervisor did not specifically say she had to say “Happy Holiday’s, she would be protected under Free speach and religious freedoms.

  • Ramon

    From an HR point of view:

    We don’t seem to have all the facts whether Ms or Mrs. Thomas has had prior insubordination issues or not. If not it seems to be an over reaction on her employer. One incident such as this one is hardly an issue to fire someone. I wonder if the employer has fired other employees for bigger issues, if not, then once again, OVER REACTION. One would need to follow the rules and direction from an employer as long as those rules and directives are not illegal or immoral which in this case it doesn’t appear to be.

    Piper & Brenda you both have very good points of view.
    Some of you need to go back to the real writings and history (not the one the media wants you to know) in order to find what the Founding Fathers really wanted to accomplish. If they wanted religious freedom isn’t it our freedom to express….

    From a personal point of view:

    It is a sad day in America when celebrating a Christian Holiday is seem as something awful. When did this start happening and why? There’s an underlying problem when Christian are not allow to say much (are actually silenced), however, liberals and certain unions can without anyone getting offended, is there a lob sided point of view here? Speaking of these two groups where are they when these types of situations occurred? Aren’t they always out there defending everyone or I guess only when is convenience for them?

    Any other Holiday are expressed by their name, why not Christmas? Dec. 25th is Christmas, not Hanukah, Quanza or any other Holiday. What should happen is that every Holiday should be greeted by name not as a blank “Holiday” wiching someone a Holiday is not to offend but rather to bring joy in someone’s life.

  • ED

    She would not be protected by free speech or freedom of religion. Freedom of speech does not protect you from the consequences of your verbal actions. In no way did requiring her to say Happy Holidays violate her freedom of religion. There is not one single Christian doctrine that admonishes or forbids the uttering of the phrase Happy Holidays or requires the use of the phrase Merry Christmas. At work you cannot say whatever you freely desire when it is your job to answer the telephones for your employer – a script was provided to all of the employees in her position – not just her.

    Learn how the law works.

  • Marie

    I’m sure you are very versed in Christian Doctrine. She did have the right to say Merry Christmas if she was offended by Happy Holidays, because again it was Christmas which is a legal holiday in this country. Just because Happy Holidays does not offend you does not mean she and others were not offended. It was a violation of her religious freedom to not be able to say Merry Christmas.

  • ED

    Do not point to the speck of dust in your brother’s eye – while failing to see the plank in your own eye.

    I have been a Wisconsin synod Lutheran since birth – for 38 years!

    Just becuase a day is a legal holiday it does not give employees the right to be insubordinate. In no way did requiring her to follow a script prevent her from being a devout Baptist.

    Freedom of religion as in the Constitution prevents the government from abolishing and or denying people the right to practice their religion. Not to give them people the rigth to practice or say what they want when they are being paid by their employer to perform duties and tasks.

    Happy Holidays includes Thanks Giving as well as New Years, Kwanza and Chanaka (I know its miss-spelled) – Jesus taught tollerance and acceptance and to love all people to refuse to include others in your well wishes goes against what Jesus taught.

  • Robin

    Here is how he lawy starts to determine whether religious discrimination has occured:

    Religious discrimination includes, but is not limited to, the following:

    – Firing an employee because of that employees’ Christian beliefs;

    – Loss of promotion due to one’s Christian witness at work;

    – Failure to give an employee a raise until the employee no longer spends free time (such as breaks or lunch) discussing religious beliefs with other employees.

    Now again, we are back to not knowing all the facts surrounding her termination, was she fired solely for not sticking to the script or were there other issues involved in her termination? It will be the employers resonsibility to prove whether or not Christain beliefs pertains to the script, etc. Again, no decisions can be made until we know all the fact.

  • Marie

    I agree with Robin. Ed bravo for you going to church, I’m very impressed, but that really negates the issue. The whole reason we say “Merry Christmas” is to celebrate the birth of Christ. I personally am offended when others say “Happy Holidays” to me. Again, the whole story should come out in court on if the employer was discriminating against the employees religious freedoms or if she was insubordinate. End of story – please!

  • ED

    How does my attending of Church negate the issue? Your being offended by the term Happy Holidays shows that you are exclusive and unaccepting of others.

    The only day and the only way that you should be offended is if on Christmas Day someone that knows you are Christian intentionally says Happy Holidays to you.

  • Donna C

    I never expected to read a debated on individuals’ personal takes on religious issues on an HR site. From everything I’ve learned about potential “religious” accommodations, they have to be based on whether or not the issue is a “deeply-held personal belief” – it doesn’t have to be tied to a major organized religion. Accommodations have been mandated by the courts in many cases for beliefs held by those who are “spiritual” rather than “religious.” The small amount of information given in the article doesn’t indicate if she asked to be allowed to use an alternate greeting, nor does it spell out whether her response to her supervisor was courteous or belligerent. The manner of her response may have been insubordinate enough to warrant dismissal. Many companies create scripts for employees to use. This insures that the message the company wants its clients to hear is given uniformly all employees. There are too many unknown elements to allow us “sideline refs” to make the call on this.

  • Robin

    Again, the discussion is not whether your or my beliefs were violated, that wouild be a discussion I would do properly and privately with my company. The question is whether Tonia’s religious beliefs were voilated in the workplace. Again, we keep pointing to others in these emails about whether we are Christain, Jewish, Aethist, etc. We are individuals who have our own beliefs and anyone here maligning them for or against, should remove themselves from the discussion, HR isn’t your field. There are so many factors that go into what has happened that we don’t know about, but I can tell you that it would be very interesting to know the legal group that is representing her and what reasons they are it for…. just a though (my HR thinking cap is on as always).

  • Robin

    Sorry I am typing too fast and not proofing, my bad.

  • Emily

    My point – this discussion was crashed by non HR people, or so I hope. Otherwise this field is in some serious trouble! Obviously, we need more information to fully judge.

  • Emily

    (I meant Robin I agree with your point, which was same as mine — if you have to use this forum to preach on religious beliefs and can’t separate from them, then HR is not your field).

  • ED

    Given the info we have –

    She was insubordinate and terminated.
    She feels it was religious discrimination.
    In order to be religious discrimination she would have to be treated different from all other employees based soley on her religion.

    I highly doubt that she is the only person of Baptist or Christian faith at her place of employment – I also doubt that she was the only person required to follow that script. I also doubt that she can prove that saying Happy Holidays is a violation of her religion.

    If she could prove that saying Happy Holidays violates a Christian Doctrine then the employer would have to make a reasonable accomodation to her.

    If not she was insubordinate.

  • Emily


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  • JAS

    Having read all of the replies briefly I’m either confused or perplexed. I read this newsletter to gain HR insight. I’m perplexed by why those commenting, have in numerous cases divorced themselves from the HR issue to pursue the religious “hot button”. HR is about respect, protection of both the employer and employee rights and adherence to the applicable laws. This case is presented with only the most general of information, begging for further detail to make an informed judgement.

    I think it probably goes without saying that if your weren’t a “believer” before becoming an HR person, you will be after doing so. (LOL) I find myself praying on a daily basis that I don’t make a consequential error that will involve either the employer or the employee in litigation.

    Respect is fundamental to HR. It is also fundamental to successful workplace culture. I would that those who aren’t actively involved in HR and who use this website will respect the HR priority in the future.

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  • ginni

    If the mandate was made to not use the word “Christmas”, the company may have a point regarding “insubordination”. One would hope that’s not the only criterion for the dismissal. On would also hope that denying religious freedom was neither intended nor carried out. For those who can’t deal with saying “happy holidays”: just remember – everyone still knows the day is CHRISTmas. ” A rose by any other name…”

  • Forist

    JAS, I agree with you. As I said earlier we lost focus of the question and have allowed our personal sensitivities to blur the issue. If there is anything I have picked up on – given the replys I have read, is that allot of people need a thicker skin.

    This case is not going to be decided on wether Thomas’ religious freedom was violated or not and it is not going to be on the differences of “Merry Christmas” vs “Happy Holidays”. A script was provided along with instructions. The employer expected the script to be followed and it was not. Hence, this case is about insubordination and over reaction of both sides. Thomas’ is seeking, I believe, a sympathy plan…violation of her constitutional right to freedom of religion. She has not been violated or prevented from practicing her faith. To say she was offended by being forced to say “Happy Holidays” is b.s. . The employer is seeking discharge on the grounds of insubordination however, we don’t know if there is any documentation to support efforts to correct or warn the EE of the potential consequences if the behavior is not corrected. If this is the first instance with documentation the employee is going to lose.

    With the risk of being castigated by some of the HR folks here let me say that it makes little difference at this point to discuss the merits of the holiday as just another day or as a religious day of remembrance. The season itself has become overly commercialized and we have failed to remember its true significance as being a day in which we wish good will, and peace onto all people, regardless of ones faith or lack there of. With that said Happy New Year!

  • Piper

    My goodness… I am not sure how many people on here are in HR or in the legal field but in all honesty, it doesn’t look like that many are (and not to be mean, but I hope they are not). The legal information I gave above was to shed some light on what her claim is and what the defenses will be. I have been practicing employment law exclusively for 10 years and am board certified in labor and employment law. People are spending WAY too much time trying to prove their personal point of view and, let me tell you, the law has VERY little to do with that. Plus, it never, never works (especially on a blog of all places). Many, many times the law goes completely against your reason and sense of fairness. So, please … do me a favor. Just do a quick google search on “Title VII religious discrimination” and evaluate this matter solely on what you read there. And please, stop being so darn mean to one another or judge one another based on your preceptions of Christians or non-Christians (whether it be your neighbor or some slave owner in history). We we all created uniquely and you never fully know someone else story, struggles, temptations etc …. It is simply not fair to throw everyone into some stereotype just because it is the easy thing to do.

    That said, some basic points I have noticed that I could not help myself buut point out:


  • Piper

    Sorry… not only did I not proofread (too darn busy today) but I accidentally hit “submit” too soon.

    1. The Constitution has NOTHING to do with this case. Zip, zero, nada! This is a PRIVATE employer people and the Constitution only governs governmental entities — i.e., if she were employed by the State, it would be an issue. It says that the government cannot inhibit your speech, religion, blah blah blah. A private employer can do pretty much whatever it wants UNLESS it violates some state or federal law (statute) or common law (which courts decide). In this case, she is arguing that the employer violated Title VII (federal anti-discrimination law that applies to any employer with 15 or more employees). Heck, there may be a state law too, but I don’t know that one. I bet if there is one, it says almost the exact same thing.

    2. Insurbordination is only half the story here. In other words, if your employer told you to take down a prayer you had posted at your desk and ya didn’t and then you got written up or suffered some adverse action … that would be “insubordination” per se. But ya know what? I bet it might also be a violation of Title VII….The reason it might not be (as they will argue similarly here) is that your employer probably has the same policy against any type of religious or personal writings and you would have a tough time proving that you were discriminated against because of YOUR religion because … guess what … your employer treats everyone the same — it’s not that you can’t put up Christian writings, it’s that NOBODY can put up ANYTHING at their desk. In this case, I would argue that it is not just that you can’t say “Merry Christmas.” you also can’t say “Happy Hannukkah” or happy Kwanza or Festivus or whatever. That is why this case is gonna be tough for her.

    3. Finally, reasonable accomodation is a whole other area of religious discrimination law (not this one). It is where an employee says she cannot work on a certain day because it is against her religion. In that case, the employer has to make a reasonable accomodation unless it would present an undue hardship on the business. It has nothing to do with this case.

    Sorry if this came of kind of “witchy” — not my intention. I am just a little surprised by all these misinformed comments 🙁 Your outside lawyers need to be teaching you better….

  • ED

    Piper you are right on –

    I have been trying to tell others (see about 7 posts above) that it is highly unlikely that she was singled out and treated differently soley or mainly based on her Baptist (Christian) beliefs.

    BTW you do not sound “witchy”

  • Victor

    What a shame!!!, to be offended because a salutation in the name of the birthday of the Son of God???, come on!!!

  • Mac

    I hate Christmas time.

  • Forist

    Piper, I have a question for discussion purposes. In this case the employer is dealing with a receptionist and certainly should have control over how people are to be greeted on the phone. Lets assume however, other employees are making business calls and wishing their accounts “Merry Christmas” vs “Happy Holidays” does this change the potential outcome. Let’s remember Thomas does not have a case if everyone is treated the same. If other employees are making business calls and are permitted to say “Merry Christmas”, then she may have merit. The employer however, may not have control and is unable to substantiate compliance if there is a directive for making phone calls.

  • Been there

    It sounds to me like there was more here than just the greeting issue. I find it hard to believe that was the only reason for being fired… for not following a scripted greeting.
    Most people have a faith of some sort. I think it is up to the company to decide what religious holidays they follow. Is it fair? Not necessarily. But you do have a choice of where you work and where you live. I do think that the norm would be whatever the majority happens to be. This country was founded on certain values and somehow those values are being lost because of “hurt feelings”. If Christians went to another country where there was another faith, wouldn’t they be expected to follow the faith of that country? I think there is too much sensitivity. Home of the free, remember.

  • Rich,SPHR

    As an HR professional and civil rights investigator for more than 15 years, I was prepared to write – in exacting detail – why this case, based on the scant facts we know so far (assuming the story actually reported it correctly) is unlikely to be successful for the employee. Building on what knowledgeable posters such as Robin and Piper have already posted…

    But what’s the point?

    The majority of HR professionals here seem to be in agreement more or less, and many of those that are not are attempting to hijack the thread to advocate for their own misplaced beliefs regarding the role of religion in the workplace or society in general (and specifically the Christian religion). There is much “gnashing of teeth” regarding the “right” to say this, or do that. So I will say one and only one thing, to paraphrase the US Supreme Court when it comes to matters of communication in the workplace between employees, and between employer and employee:

    The law DOES NOT PROTECT employees with egg-shell feelings.

    Anyone – ANYONE – who articulates that their “offense” at hearing or being required by their employer to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” to the degree that they believe a civil rights violation occurred (in the workplace, or anywhere else for that matter) is de jure (and I would also argue de facto) unreasonable. The law has not, does not, and will not ever protect you, thank G-d, and the many intelligent and thoughtful members of our judiciary system.

    For those of us in the HR profession, and those others of you who are reasoned individuals, irrespective of your religious faith (or lack of faith), I respect all of your views.

    For the rest of you, my arrogance, contempt, and elitist attitude is intentional. I make no apologies for it. I have little patience or regard for two types of people (usually the same person has both “qualities”):

    1. The blissfully and usually “intentionally” uninformed who consistently espouse a “right to” this or a “right from” that. Read a book instead of watching Jerry Springer and listening to Rush Limbaugh.

    2. Religious zealots that attempt to use (or abuse) the law (and usually the US Constitution specifically, even though most of the time that’s not really the body of law at issue) to justify their personal point of view. You are nothing but disingenuous, and your thinly-veiled contempt for others not of your faith is neither clever nor hidden. I know the hate and fear in the core of your heart. As the child of a Holocaust survivor, I know too well from my parents where your beliefs can lead.

    Sigh. I’m done, and so are all of you. I strongly recommend you get back to the good work you do, and stop wasting time here.

  • ED


  • Marie

    This has gone way beyond an HR issue and has now become a Christina bashing board. Where is the “tollerance” for all “religions” gone? The HR professionalism appears to have vanished here. Bottom line, we do not have the full story, but both the admin and supervisor have specific rights depending on the scenario, which we do not have all the details. Let’s all agree to leave it at that and move on please.

  • ED

    It was tossed out of teh door by you.

  • ginni

    Rich & Ed – I wonder if you would feel the same (or as Ed would say, “teh”) if “Happy Holidays” was banned & “Merry Christmas” enforced. You are right, though – it’s a shame that this has come down to name calling and a complete lack of that “tolerance” we’re all so quick to espouse when it’s about someone else. By the way, HR should encompass some emotion, as well as the letter of the law. There needs to be a melding, unless you’re dealing with a automaton. And it’s true, all laws are right – but remeber, not all laws are good.

  • ED

    Ginny – personal attacks even if they are little, do not display a Christain attitude. So I misstype “the” frequently – big deal – that will not cost my employer any money. Since you have read very little of anything I WROTE (not said) I do not want to bother explaining my religious stance to you – mostly because I believe you would just blow it off anyway.

    To tell a Jewish person that they must say something from another religion is not “teh” same as requesting a non-religious specific term to be used. You must do your best to keep emotion out of decision making and stick to “teh” law even when dealing with a(N) automaton.

    Would “teh” employer you represent mind losing a legal decision because you didn’t think that a law was good?

  • HRgal

    Ginni – “remeber” what our purpose is as HR reps. LOL.

    BTW, if you’re going to mock someone else’s typo, you should first proofread your own post.

  • ginni

    Ed – FYi, i AM Jewish!

  • JVN

    Piper had it right yesterday when she asked everyone to quit being so mean to eachother. This has gone from being a discussion about the finer points of employee relations and reasonable accommodation to I don’t know what…I’m not even going to follow the thread of this one anymore. I’m unsubscribing from this particular discussion.

    Take care everybody. I wish you all (even those of you I totally disagree with in every way) the best for great week and a happy life.

  • ED

    That has no bearing on the fact that you logic statement is flawed.

  • Lisa

    Cynthia & Judy…I say AMEN! This “reverse discrimination ” against God fearing Christians has gone too far.

  • MJ

    Well, this is a hot button issue, isn’t it!

    I hate that so many people think they are the only people on earth and only their beliefs are valid !! We are a vast mix of races, religions, backgrounds, etc. This is what makes us such a great country. Religion is personal. Business is business.
    I am a Christian, but know that there are many people who have beliefs different from mine.
    I don’t don’t force my beliefs on them as I wouldn’t want them to force theirs on me.
    Get a grip Ms Thomas.

  • HollywoodHR

    Well said, Rich!

    Unless I missed it (which I doubt), there is no Constitutional right to never be offended. Furthermore, “taking” offense is, by definition, a choice – “God fearing Christians” on this discussion board appear to have chosen to be offended by the use of “Happy Holidays” in favor of “Merry Christmas,” rather than choosing to hear the wish for happiness during the holiday season that is being offered. I’m not seeing the claimed “Christian bashing” on here as much as a lack of tolerance and mutual respect – regrettably, often from those claiming to be followers of Christ. I’m sure Jesus would be pleased.

    As to the topic at hand, it has long been my understanding that when an individual accepts paid employment, part of that “employment contract” is that the employee will do what the employer asks in exchange for wages, provided that the employer’s requests are not illegal, immoral, dangerous or reprehensible. For example, if a ditch-digger is directed by his employer to dig using the handle of the shovel instead of the proper end, so be it! So long has he is doing what the employer asked, he is earning his pay. In this instance, Ms. Thomas flat-out refused to do what the employer asked – a breach of her agreement to do what the employer asked in exchange for pay. The consequences of breaching that contract was the termination of the employment contract by the employer. She failed to hold up her end of the bargain.

    Finally, Ms. Thomas’ claim that, “as a Christian she doesn’t recognize other holidays” is disingenuous at best and a ridiculous lie at worst — while I obviously can’t prove it, I would be willing to bet she does recognize “other holidays,” especially those for which she gets paid to not work.

  • Ron W.

    At this point doesn’t Happy Holidays describe the season as opposed to the specific 25 December. People start saying Happy Holidays around Thanksgiving and I believe it is in the spirit of encompassing all the holidays because that is a little early to say Merry Christmas. Also when dealing with guests (hotel industry), I start with Happy Holidays and they may come back with Merry Christmas and we then move on and I can use that at the end of the conversation.

    And let’s not forget another holiday celebrated with a day off near Christmas. New Years Day.

    Saying Happy Holidays and Seasons Greeatings to me is all inclusive and leaves no one out. Even the athiests since New Years is not tied to a religion.

  • Brian

    The notion that Christians are having their rights stripped away because an employer is requiring someone in the service industry to say “Happy Holidays”. And make no mistake – that’s what some of you are saying. This woman chose to purposely defy her employer. That is insubordination.

    A lifelong Christian myself, I have come to the conclusion that my faith must be much stronger than other Christians’. I don’t need to have the Ten Commandments displayed in front of my courthouse. I don’t get agitated when the guy at Subway doesn’t say ‘Merry Christmas’. I don’t even care if my daughter is one day forced to omit “under God” from the pledge of allegiance. That’s because I don’t depend on courts, businesses or schools to define my relationship with God. I depend on my church and the Bible. I wonder when many so called Christians will realize we are still playing the role of the Pharisees.

  • Shyann

    Well Ginni, weather your Jewish or not, you missed the message Rich was stating. Jewish (among many others) people if any should know from either parents or grandparents (if not their own experience) that they were forced to do things that they didn’t believe in and even try to make them ashamed of who they were. Did this make them any less of a person? Absolutely not!! If anything this made them stronger.

    As far as correcting errors in these messages, you are far more petty then some would prefer. Your reading their words and not the message that people are trying to get across.

  • Lajgirl

    This is not a discussion about greetings and whether “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” is the more “correct” greeting! It is a discussion about whether or not the employee had a legal right to disobey her employer’s directive. Tonia Thomas’ employer asked her to say something within reason. She made a personal decision to ignore the employer’s request and to follow her own personal script. She was wrong; the workplace is not an appropriate place for this kind of activism. It’s a business. She is not required to work there; she can work anywhere (including a church that believes the same as she does). She chose to work there and that means she chose to follow her employer’s direction on workplace rules and etiquette as long as those are legal and reasonable. I would have fired her without a second thought and my decision has nothing to do with religion. My receptionist will use the greeting I provide or I will find a new receptionist. That is a “first day” discussion for me.

    There is no law against “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”. Laws like that would be stupid. It’s a greeting wishing another person well. If you are offended by either statement, you must want to be offended and that is something you will have to fix for yourself–can’t be fixed by society.

    Most impotantly, anyone in the HR field who thinks a place of business is the perfect opportunity and place for an individual to take a public stand against perceived injustices in today’s society is not serving the company that pays him/her and I would strongly reccommend another line of work…

  • Yoli

    Personally, I don’t think her Merry Christmas greeting offends anyone, she has the right to say it anywhere she wants, including at work, HOWEVER, not after the employer told her not to with a legitimate business reason.

  • Julie

    What’s hard to believe is that we cater to a small percentage of the population and if we don’t it is considered insensitive. Do you really think that their company losses business because someone says Merry Christmas? And if so with a high percentage of the population that are Christians don’t you think they would bring in more customers solely on respect of not wasting time with PC and getting on with business. This is such a small thing to cry over. If this employee did in fact have other issues then this was a bad point to fire her on. If she was heading down that road I’m sure there would have been many chances, rather than stabbing at her religious beliefs.

  • Michael Ciraulo

    I think people should just say whatever they wan’t, if you greet someone by saying “Merry Christmas” they should be able to respond with their beliefs like “Happy Hanukkah” or something back. And I agree, by trying to please everyone you are restricting everyone’s rights.

    I mean as far as I go for example, I would like to say “Merry Christmas” but due to working at a community college I can’t, and the problem with that is not saying Merry Christmas doesn’t make me think to say “Happy Holidays” instead so I wind up not even giving a person a seasons greeting at all, and nobody has told me “Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays” at all so far which make me think that if everyone is afraid of saying their particular greeting for fear of offending maybe people might eventually not even say any form of a seasonal greeting to anyone.

    Also I thought that if they discourage people from saying “Merry/Happy Christmas” then what about saying “Happy St. Patrick’s day” so far I haven’t heard anyone making an uproar about people saying that to each other and the St. stands for Saint and a Saint is a religious thing, if we can’t say Merry Christmas we shouldn’t say happy St Patrick’s day either.