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.
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