I am an 13-year employee of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The Medical Center is a first rate hospital and research facility, and I have enjoyed working there in the Davis Research Institute. Although the administration prides itself for its diversity, and theoretically tolerates individual religious and ethnic expression, it now seems that at least one form religious expression is no longer "tasteful."
A recent e-mail from the senior vice president specified the guidelines for holiday decorations. According to the e-mail, holiday decorations must be "balanced", "safe" and "tasteful". In describing what was and was not tasteful, the following instruction was given:
Tasteful seasonal decorations or wishes are appropriate (e.g. "Seasons Greetings", "Happy Holidays", "Happy New Year", "Happy Hanukkah"). Specific religious symbols or decorations (e.g., nativity scenes) should be confined to private offices, cubicles, or patient rooms. The Chaplaincy will also be placing holiday decorations in public areas.1
According to the instructions, "Happy Hanukkah" is described as being tasteful, while Christian nativity scenes are not. So much for tolerance! I replied to the research institute along with Jeanne Flores and her assistant with the following short e-mail:
As a member of the not “tasteful” religion for which there seems to be no tolerance at Cedars-Sinai, I found the following e-mail to be extremely offensive. Since when is “Happy Hanukkah” tasteful, whereas Merry --------- (oops! can’t mention that “C” word) is not? Maybe I am working at the wrong place, since the “J” guy (or me?) does not seem to be welcome here.
I received a number of replies from others in the research institute, all except one of which were positive. I have yet to receive a reply from Jeanne Flores or her assistant. However, I encourage you to wish her a Merry Christmas by sending her an e-mail through our form. Please be nice!
Many of you have requested guidelines for decorating the workplace during the holidays. We certainly want to encourage all of us to celebrate during this special time. Decorations in the workplace are welcome as long as they are "tasteful", "balanced" and "safe".
Balanced: We would suggest that in public, patient or non-patient areas, if any decorations are used, make sure that multiple religious traditions are represented.
Safe: Please keep in mind that many types of decorations may be in conflict with fire safety codes. Nothing may be hung from ceiling tiles or sprinkler heads, doors may not be wrapped in paper, no real trees or plants with lights, and corridors may not be blocked with large displays, etc. Employees may need to remind visitors of our safety policies especially relative to live trees, plants, and items requiring electrical power and remind them we wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season.
Tasteful: In keeping with the healing environment we strive to achieve for our patients.
General Public and Patient Care Areas (Lobbies, hallways, treatment areas, diagnostic areas, inpatient units, and centrally booked conference rooms such as Harvey Morse, Educational Conference Center, etc.)
Tasteful seasonal decorations or wishes are appropriate (e.g. "Seasons Greetings", "Happy Holidays", "Happy New Year", "Happy Hanukkah"). Specific religious symbols or decorations (e.g., nativity scenes) should be confined to private offices, cubicles, or patient rooms. The Chaplaincy will also be placing holiday decorations in public areas.
We are what we think.
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Last Modified December 22, 2005