Tuesday, December 11, 2007

offended by nothing

The following was sent in by a faithful reader. It details an interesting email exchange about the appropriate use of Holiday displays at the office. We include it here to potentially offset similar encounters before they occur at your workplace.
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To: All Department Employees

From: Michelle Quigley
Designated Agency Ethics Official

Subject: Guidance for the Upcoming Holiday Season

I would like to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a very merry and safe holiday season. Each year at this time many of us participate in holiday celebrations and activities occurring in and out of the office. While this is a time of celebration and joy, we must still be aware that there are rules and regulations which apply to all employees. As a result, the Departmental Ethics Office generally receives a number of questions from employees on the appropriateness of certain holiday activities.

Therefore, in anticipation of the more common questions received by my office, I have provided you with a summary of the rules governing various holiday activities.
Holiday Decorations
The Ethics Office has ruled that while offices may expend appropriated funds for reasonable seasonal decorations, such expenditures should be limited to those for use in the main entrances. central lobbies, or shared work areas of buildings. Seasonal decorations should not endorse, nor appear to endorse, any particular religious or political belief. Company funds may not be used to purchase decorations of a religious nature for private office space, nor for common areas.

Expenditures by the company are not authorized for decorating private areas or areas where the benefit is primarily for the employees who work in that area. However, employees may decorate their office areas, if decorations are purchased with their own funds (emphasis added). Such decorations may reflect the individual's cultural or religious beliefs (for example, a Christmas tree, a depiction of St. Nicholas, a menorah, or a Mkeka and Kinara), provided that such decorations do not interfere with the accomplishment of the employee's official responsibilities.

Wishing you the best this holiday season.
Michelle Quigley
Designated Agency Ethics Official
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To: Michelle Quigley
Designated Agency Ethics Official

From: >name redacted for privacy purposes<

Subject: re: Guidance for the Upcoming Holiday Season

Thank you for clarifying the appropriate use of holday decorations at the office. We are decking the foyer, but not the Halls! Question though. After reading your email guidance, a frustrated employee came to me and asked, "would it be appropriate to display an atheistic holiday display in my cubicle?" My response, based upon your edifying email, was that as long as the display reflected his/hers belief system, then it was appropriate. The employee then left and on their lunch hour constructed such a display. The following morning, a nearby officemate came to me expressing considerable consternation at the display. I suggested that perhaps the best thing to do would be to ignore it, but no, this employee was adamant that the display was in fact highly offensive to them. I looked at the display and found nothing offensive. Can you advise as to the appropriateness of atheistic holiday displays in the office work environment?

A safe holiday to you.
>name redacted for privacy purposes<
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To: >name redacted for privacy purposes<

From: Michelle Quigley
Designated Agency Ethics Official

Subject: Guidance for the Upcoming Holiday Season

Thanks for your interest in making the holidays fun and safe for all. I have checked with the comptroller as to the appropriateness of such a display within the confines of office space. Unfortunately though, athesism is not currently listed in the departmental guidelines as an official religion and thus is not covered under the Department's holiday guidance. Perhaps as a compromise, you might suggest that the employee in question simplify the display, thereby removing the offensive elements and thus lessening it's effect.

Peace to you this holiday season.
Michelle Quigley
Designated Agency Ethics Official
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To: Michelle Quigley
Designated Agency Ethics Official

From: >name redacted for privacy purposes<

Subject: re: Guidance for the Upcoming Holiday Season

What a joy this time of year is! Snow is falling and everyone is making merry - but not on company time! I followed your advice and made the compromise suggestion of simplification. However, I must say that this suggestion was not meet with what one might call the Holiday Spirit. NO! No, indeed. The employee in question said such threats only strenghtened their personal resolve for a public display of beliefs.

Wishing you Joy and Prosperity in the New Year.
>name redacted for privacy purposes<
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To: >name redacted for privacy purposes<

From: Michelle Quigley
Designated Agency Ethics Official

Subject: re: Guidance for the Upcoming Holiday Season

I have met again with consel on this matter. They have suggested that the best approach is to allow the employee to display nothing.

Again, Peace.
Michelle Quigley
Designated Agency Ethics Official
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To: Michelle Quigley
Designated Agency Ethics Official

From: >name redacted for privacy purposes<
Subject: re: Guidance for the Upcoming Holiday Season

Joyous Holidays indeed. We have successfully resolved the issue. After some soul searching in the off-hours, and upon closer inspection, it was determined by all parties that the display contained nothing of offense.

Your Ally in All things Allah.
>name redacted for privacy purposes<
p.s. A photo of the display is enclosed so that you make your own determination and assure the Department of Ethics that we have made the right choice.

1 comment:

Evan said...

On decorating for Xmas in the Pentagon:

"It's impossible to know how many thousands of people are trimming Christmas trees, stringing lights and eating potluck lunches behind closed doors. But 28 groups got permission this December to hold holiday parties in the halls, after submitting form No. DD2798 — “Application/Permit for Use of Space on the Pentagon Reservation.”



It's due two weeks before a party; must be approved by Mr. Bryant, as well as Pentagon fire, police and environmental officials, and must be accompanied by a scaled drawing showing where the event will be, how the food tables will be situated and where the nearest exits are.



“If the application/permit is disapproved, the reason will be stated on the permit and an opportunity will be given to correct the issue,” the rules say.



Sometimes no corrections are needed. This year the Navy has four 8-foot, fully decorated artificial trees in its corridor, skirting at least two rules. Someone gave them “a waiver,” was all Mr. Bryant would say, though he didn't appear to approve.

Anyway, it'll soon all be just another memory. Decorations may go up no earlier than the second Friday of December and must come down by the first Friday of January."

http://washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071215/METRO/112150036/-1/RSS_METRO&template=nextpage