What is Hispanic Heritage Month?
President Lyndon Johnson established Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 and President Ronald Reagan expanded it to a full month in 1988.
Most month-long celebrations of culture start with the beginning of a new month. Hispanic Heritage Month, however, starts mid-month because Sept. 15 is a significant date in several countries.
On Sept. 15, the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras celebrate independence. Mexico celebrates its independence on Sept. 16, while Chile marks the occasion on Sept. 18. Another celebration, Dia de la Raza, or Day of the Race, falls on the second Monday in October.
How can employers responsibly celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?
Celebrating events like Hispanic Heritage Month can be part of a broader diversity and inclusion plan. Cultural sensitivity can improve morale, increase productivity, and help break down communication barriers between your team members. As an employer, you can improve the working environment by learning more and encouraging others to learn more about different cultures and backgrounds. You may want to discuss your celebration plans with managers or staff who are familiar with, or have received training on the issues surrounding cultural sensitivity in the workplace.
Generally, workplace policies that encourage people of all cultures to celebrate special holidays foster belonging and inclusion. The Employee Handbook may set out that traditional dress is permissible on holidays or identify certain holidays for time off or provide floating holidays.
An Anti-Discrimination Policy may be incorporated into the Employee Handbook as well. You may want to schedule annual trainings for staff to discuss what actions constitute discrimination and how to handle and report those actions if they occur.
What activities are good for celebrating diversity?
You can hold a wide variety of activities that encourage diversity in your workplace and educate staff throughout Hispanic Heritage Month. The following are some tried and true examples:
Schedule a speaker
You may want to ask a professional speaker to give a talk about Hispanic Heritage Month or explain the significance of a specific event in a country and how it is celebrated. While speakers normally would come to a workplace, speakers can also present remotely.
Screen a movie
Screening a movie that is culturally appropriate for the holiday is a great way to let your employees enjoy learning about a holiday or culture. Some films that promote Hispanic culture or have Hispanic-inspired themes include “El Norte” (1983), “The Mambo Kings” (1992), and “Selena” (1997).
Many communities have local charities or initiatives that support Hispanic causes. A quick online search for “Hispanic volunteer opportunities near me” may yield a few options to volunteer in your area. Many organizations will have programs for employers or be willing to partner with local businesses to provide employees with group volunteer opportunities.
Culturally diverse catering
Potlucks are a great way for friends to sample a wide variety of foods from different backgrounds, but in a workplace potlucks may not be appropriate. Instead, a local eatery that caters may be able to thoroughly highlight traditional dishes without burdening your employees.
Just because your staff is remote does not mean you miss Hispanic Heritage Month. While speakers and movie viewing parties can be held online, the pandemic has led to a whole host of virtual online activities. One popular option is a make-from-home virtual cooking class that employees can do in their own kitchens.
Is it legal to solicit donations for relevant charities or causes?
There are no restrictions on the charities a private business supports. It is also up to you whether you want to involve employees in those donations. Charitable giving can be a great way to stay involved in the community. Employers often do dollar-for-dollar charitable contribution matching, where employers will match employee donations up to a certain amount.
Charities, however, must be a legally recognized entity for any donations to qualify for tax deductions. If employees are not making the donations themselves directly to the charity, then you may want to ask a lawyer about the potential legal or tax issues that may arise from collecting the donations yourself.
What should employers do about employees or customers who are reluctant to celebrate specific events or holidays?
Cultural sensitivity training may address some biases. Workplace policies that promote an inclusive office environment may help employees appreciate the atmosphere. An open and affirming internal company culture may be an effective deterrent to those adverse reactions to inclusion efforts.
Whether employees or customers, you can explain that your efforts are intended to include all people and cultures in your workplace.
If you have further questions about incorporating Hispanic Heritage Month activities into your workplace or about diversity and inclusion in general, contact a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.