Holidays Can Bring Employee Issues to Businesses

By Joyce M. Rosenberg, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Some of the stress that small business owners feel around the holidays may come from employee issues.

For example, several staffers want to take the same days off. Parents want to leave early so they can catch their kids' holiday recitals. Some employees want to install religious displays in their cubicles, and others feel offended.

A look at these situations, and how to handle them:

The Time Off Issue

Owners often get multiple requests from staffers for the same day off. Some of those requests were made months ago, but there are often procrastinators who plead for time off at the last minute. Owners may feel sympathetic, but they also need to be sure that the work gets done. And the latter needs to be the priority. So if one or more staffers already have dibs on the day and you can't afford to let anyone else be off, others may unfortunately have to be disappointed.

But there's a larger issue to be considered. How do you grant vacation or other paid time off? Do you have a written policy, or deal with time off on an ad hoc basis? And as part of that policy, do you spell out how you handle multiple requests?

Making your policy up as you go along means you're likely to have resentful employees. For instance, if you OK one staffer's vacation on a first-come, first-served basis, but on another occasion decide that a more senior employee should get the day off.

Helene Wasserman, an attorney with the labor law firm Littler Mendelson in Los Angeles, says employees need to be treated equally. And not just to keep morale up. You might not think anything untoward about handling time off in an uneven manner, but Wasserman says a disgruntled employee might see it as unequal treatment and use it as evidence in a discrimination suit in the future. "Innocent actions can frequently become perceived as something sinister," she says.

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