JASON RANTZ

Rantz: King County goes to war with Christmas, Hanukkah decorations

Nov 13, 2022, 12:04 PM | Updated: 5:56 pm
Christmas decorations like this may be deemed inappropriate in King County offices. (WordPress)...

You can celebrate LGBT Pride and wear a Black Lives Matter button throughout your day as a King County employee. But you better not show a nativity set or menorah on your digital workspace or your home office.

King County Human Resources warned employees not to decorate their workspaces with overtly Christmas or Hanukkah decorations. They fear decorations may offend employees.

Gloria Ngezaho, Workforce Equity Manager for the Department of Human Resources, authored a memo titled “Guidelines for Holiday Decorations for King County Employees” to outline expectations. It says the county “remains committed to honoring the diversity in its workforce and is fortunate to have employees from many diverse backgrounds.”

Just don’t go too far.

“Before adding any decorations to your workspace (including your virtual workspace), consider the likely effect of such decorations on all of the employees in and outside your work group,” reads the memo obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH by a county staffer who found it posted internally last week.

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County employees feign hostility

The county has employees so hostile to religious symbols (real or perceived), it focuses warnings primarily on virtual backgrounds. This presumably extends to your office home office if it’s shown on webcam.

“Some employees may not share your religion, practice any religion, or share your enthusiasm for holiday decorations. Displays of religious symbols may only be displayed in an employee’s personal workspace. Religious symbols should not be displayed in or as a background to an employee’s virtual workspace,” the memo explains.

The memo says you cannot include Nativity sets or menorahs. But the list of symbols banned from virtual display extends well beyond what you would display for the holidays: stars of David, a cross or a crucifix, and images of Jesus or Mary.

To ensure that HR isn’t accused of focusing exclusively on Christians and Jews, even though that appears to be the intent, the memo warns against the dharma wheel, crescent and star, aum, khanda, and a nine-pointed star. None of these symbols are displayed for the holiday season.

You can, however, decorate with snowflakes, wreaths, and holly. You can even show pine trees, “so long as they are not decorated with religious symbols.”

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Keep it private

Common areas must be completely free from decorations employees or members of staff will feign offense over.

“For those who are not teleworking, common areas within work units are considered a public area. These spaces are shared by multiple employees in the performance of their jobs. Such areas would include breakrooms, conference rooms, and reception areas. Religious symbols are not appropriate in these areas, because it may cause disruption to co-workers or members of the public that do not share that particular religion,” the memo claims.

The memo states that, as a public institution, it “cannot appear to support any particular religion.” And the guidelines apply to holiday gatherings.

“It’s been a number of years, but we were told we can’t wish anyone a “Merry Christmas.” People were literally reported to HR if they put it in their e-mail(s),” a county staffer emailed the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “Years ago the Christmas party (red/green decor) became a Holiday party with silver/blue decor and no holiday music. It then became the annual party with nothing.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: King County goes to war with Christmas, Hanukkah decorations