Decorating office for the holidays? Be mindful of others

By Thomas Hoffer, RHC-P EEO AdvisorDecember 9, 2020

Planning to decorate your workspace for the holidays? It's allowed, but be mindful of others, says Thomas Hoffer, RHC-P's equal employment opportunity advisor.
Planning to decorate your workspace for the holidays? It's allowed, but be mindful of others, says Thomas Hoffer, RHC-P's equal employment opportunity advisor. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo, VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – During this time of year, a number of cultural and religious days of significance are observed here in Regional Health Command-Pacific and around the world.

While it is a time of celebration, it is also a time to be mindful and respectful of the rich and diverse cultures that are ever-present in our workplaces and the communities we serve.

During the holidays, folks may wish to join in the festivities by decorating their workspaces and surrounding areas. This is allowable. But please be mindful of a few helpful tips provided below, so that individuals wishing to celebrate the holidays can do so, while respecting the beliefs and rights of all.

- In accordance with federal guidelines, only secular holiday decorations may be displayed in public work areas or common areas. A public work space or common area is any space by which the public has physical or visual access. For example, this may include lobbies, reception areas, front counters, conference rooms, break rooms, community areas, hallways, or exteriors of buildings.

Secular holiday decorations include things like tinsel or garland, snowmen, candy canes, reindeer, and so forth. Religious symbols or holiday decorations with religious content should not be displayed.

- In a shared workspace, only secular holiday decorations may be displayed. A shared workspace is one used or shared by multiple employees, such as copy rooms, conference rooms, shared offices, bathrooms or break areas. Holiday decorations with religious content, symbols or themes should not be displayed.

- Employees may place decorations featuring a religious theme in their private workspace. Caution, however, must be exercised so as not to create a reasonable impression that the government is sponsoring, endorsing or inhibiting religion generally or favoring or disfavoring a particular religion.

Private workspaces are areas assigned exclusively to one employee, such as a cubicle, desk, or office that may be seen occasionally by coworkers but not by clients, customers, or the general public.

- Employees should refrain from removing, on their own accord, any decoration outside of their private workspace they feel is inappropriate for display. Instead, an employee should alert the supervisor or management official responsible for that area/space and report their concern.

- Supervisors with questions concerning the appropriateness of a particular decoration in may contact your local garrison Equal Employment Opportunity office, or the RHC-P EEO Advisor, Thomas A. Hoffer, at

RHC-P, headquartered at JBLM and in Honolulu, is the most geographically-dispersed command in Army Medicine, stretching more than 5,000 miles and five time zones across the Pacific. The command oversees Army medical treatment facilities and units in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Hawaii, Japan and South Korea.