Birthdays in the workplace

June 12th, 2018 by hrsimple


It only happens once a year and some people think it should be a federal holiday – no, not National Grilled Cheese Day – birthdays!  While some employees could not care less about celebrating them in the workplace or any place else, others will pout all day if you ignore it. But what place do celebrations have in the workplace?  Is it appropriate?  A breach of privacy?  A really good excuse to eat a lot of cake? 

Here are a few steps to follow to make your office a happy birthday zone.

Step one: Gather the data. 
In the hiring paperwork for new employees (NOT for potential employees – so not on an application!) include a quick questionnaire about birthdays, including questions like:

  • Are you comfortable with the company acknowledging your birthday?
  • If so, when is your birthday/birth month?
  • Do you have any dessert preferences or food allergies?

These questions let you know up front whether an employee prefers to celebrate or not, as many people feel uncomfortable with the attention, and also make sure you are aware of any potential safety issues – marzipan cake isn’t great for those with nut allergies, it turns out.  If an employee chooses not to acknowledge their birthday in the workplace, respect this decision. If you think it might just be shyness and disregard their wishes, you could run into religious discrimination claims as some religions forbid such celebrations.

Step two: Come up with a consistent practice.
Set a policy on how birthdays will be celebrated in the workplace. Here are a few options employers have used (keep in mind your company size when picking a policy):

  • a personal treat and card on or near each employee’s birthday
  • a cake for the whole office to share during break
  • allowing the employee to decide where lunch should be purchased on their birthday
  • a monthly celebration for all birthdays that month.

As with all things employment related, consistency is key. Celebrating one employee’s birthday more than another’s might lead to hurt feelings, awkward situations, and even discrimination suits.

Step three: Be careful of the language you use. 

It may seem silly to some, but using language like “over the hill” or other age-related jokes could open an employer up for future discrimination charges.  Acknowledging that an employee is older than the rest of the staff and suggesting that to be a negative can be used as evidence in a claim against you.  Alternatively, an employer shouldn’t make observations about an employee being “fresh” or too young. In short, keep the age jokes out of it!

With these procedures in place, you’ll be able to have your cake, and your employees’ too.

Need a place to start?

Here is a sample policy you can adjust to suit your birthday practices. 

SAMPLE BIRTHDAYS IN THE WORKPLACE POLICY

Company recognizes the importance of birthdays as a milestone in one’s life, and the interest of some of its employees in celebrating their co-workers’ birthdays.  Company also recognizes, however, that some people do not wish to have their birthdays publicly celebrated.  To balance these interests, Company introduces the following policy regarding birthdays in the workplace. 

  1. Company will arrange and pay for a birthday party each month to celebrate the birthdays of those employees whose birthdays fall in that month.  The party will occur at a time and date that is least disruptive to the company, at the Company’s discretion.  Company will provide a cake, healthy snack options, and nonalcoholic beverages under a pre-set budget.  The party is optional for all employees, and employees with birthdays who do not wish to participate are not obligated to attend.  Employees who do not wish to be recognized at the monthly birthday party should request to have their name associated with the monthly birthday party, either by contacting their immediate supervisor or HR.                   
  2. Private, employee-organized birthday celebrations for individual employees may not occur on Company property or during working hours at any time.  Employees are encouraged to be sensitive about excluding co-workers from private birthday celebrations.  Expenditures for private birthday parties are considered to be of a personal nature and will not be reimbursed.                                                   
  3. Under no circumstances will Company, its HR staff or managers/supervisors reveal an employee’s age or birth date.  Company expressly forbids employees from teasing co-workers or supervisors about their age at or near the time of an employee’s birthday or during the Company-sponsored monthly birthday celebration. 
  4. Employees are encouraged to refrain from providing birthday cards with a religious, sexual, or other theme that may be offensive to the person receiving the birthday card.  Remember: What may be humorous or well-intentioned to you may not be so well-received by another.

 





HR Webinars
Answers to contractor's frequently asked questions on filing VETS-4212 reports
August 23rd, 2018 at 1:00pm CDT by Ogletree Deakins


HR Articles
Employment agreements – what to do before you do
Background checks of the future are continuous
Treating service animal requests (always treat the animal)
Prepare for saying "No" – you need to decide how to refuse service
List 10 up: What's the deal with employee handbook rules?
I cannot tell a lie . . . you're fired for cutting down the cherry tree
Milk Stork delivers for working mom's and their baby
Job tasks and essential functions under the ADA
Who are you? Why are you here? Personality testing?
No, you can't sleep on the job
Technology driving the hiring process
Should you give your employees a little Slack – or do they have enough already?
"We need to talk" isn't any easier to say than to hear
Bet employers must make: call and raise your minimum wage
Zero tolerance for "zero tolerance" policies
Ralph Waldo Emerson as a productivity consultant
PS: PTSD IRL*
Is the employee "disabled" under the ADA?
The six step DOL audit polka
PTO on the house!
New rules for work rules
Dr. Strangelabor or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Millennial
Did Bartleby the scrivener write his own job description?
"Treating" disgruntled or bad behaving employees
Hiring under the age of 18
DO NOT LICK THE BRAIN! and other obvious stuff
Helping your employees save for emergencies
Right to bare arms in the workplace
#MeToo quiz
Under standing desks
How to approach an employee showing signs of cognitive decline
Dress codes should not be encoded
Foul language *
Rorschach, Horshack and Abednego
Don't ask a woman the gender of her child, especially. . .
Guidelines for a valid no-solicitation/no-distribution policy
All aboard the Love Train for long-term onboarding!
Gender and workplace bathrooms
No FMLA for pet's death
Personal hygiene in the workplace
Yes Virginia, there is a St. Patrick's Day in Ireland
Master the modern method for managing March Madness
Drug testing in The Office
Background checks
"Thank you" and "I'm sorry" – meaningful, simple and impactful
Michael Corleone HR tip for the day
S'not flu or it is, doesn't matter
Be prepared for ICE raids
Looking for employees: an untapped source of talent
Calling Dr. Love(less)
Non-exempt employees – what counts as wages?
HR is not a happy accident
Do new hires have to be a culture club fit?
Remote workers and telecommuting
When former employees ask for references
Model written lock out/tag out program
Wrong table cat
They might be giants . . . transforming healthcare?
Conducting internal I-9 audits
The Nebraska Chamber has issued a W-2 challenge to state taxpayers
The impact of super bowl(ing)
12 steps to handling violence in the workplace
Workplace retaliation: don't give in to the Dark Side
Would you really want to work with a bunch of yous?
What is the ADA?
Monty Python should not write your job descriptions
FMLA definitions
Unemployed or wear a bra – are those the only choices?
What "government shutdown" means for employers
An intern by any other name
FMLA - "leave" as in "leave the employee alone"
 “M,” “F,” Or “X”? Nonbinary Gender Designations in the Workplace
Sexual harassment – can't find it – what now?
Probationary periods
Employee contracts
Introverts
How to treat fringe benefits for employees
Attendance policies
Different repeal
Temporary and leased employees
Birthdays in the workplace
Needy employees
Holiday parties - acknowledge, avoid, assume (nothing)
Dress codes: who, what, wear
Punch clock
Nepotism: favoring relatives and friends in the workplace
Year-end performance reviews
Hiring interviews
The Form I-9 has changed… Again!
Service dogs at work
Bring your own gun
Social media
Year-end or holiday incentives
Arizona sick day policy
Paternity leave
HRsimple spotlight - Fiona Ong
Permissible post-accident drug testing
Paid family leave: a growing trend
Politics in the workplace: how to remain legally compliant during election season
Termination Series: Communicating the reason for discharge
It’s only a matter of overtime
Interview with attorneys at Kastner Westman & Wilkins
Valentine's Day heartaches around the office
Safety and health tips
Wearable technology
Favorite HR sites
Back to school time is here!
Vacation policies and time off
Interview with author J. Hagood Tighe
Non-compete agreements
Workplace romance
Holidays
Bullying in the workplace
Employment references
Telecommuting or remote (control) workers
Social media and employment
Performance evaluations
Breaktimes
Interview with attorneys at Wilson Worley PC
Interview with attorneys at Knudsen Law Firm
Interview with Kathy Speaker MacNett
Firing, a job to do right the first time
Job advertisement do’s and don’ts
Employee handbooks – getting a handle on your policies
Technology in the workplace
Interview questions: do's and don'ts
Employee personnel files