Happy Birthday, You are Older

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about posting Birthdays.

Is there a form that I can have each employee sign giving permission for our Company to post their Birthday? Just a simple form that the employee can sign for the Company to post their Birthday on a  Company-Wide Calendar. I know some companies refuse to post Birthdays and some have a permission form.  We would like to request a form if at all possible. –Signed Permission for a Happy Birthday

Dear Permission for a Happy Birthday:

Your question indicates you are sensitive to disclosing private and personal information. A form to obtain an employee’s permission to disclose her/his birthday has probably been made many times and perhaps your Q will enable you to learn of some of them. If SHRM had a site such as Ask the Workplace Doctors, your question is one that should generate answers. I sense you have researched or instinctively know the dos and don’t surrounding the topic of Birthdays, e.g. How to Celebrate Birthdays at Work 101 by Christina Thompson November 17, 2017 https://www.quantumworkplace.com/future-of-work/how-to-celebrate-birthdays-at-work-101

In response to reading your question, Dr. Mark Mindell, experienced HR manager, suggests simplicity if you do this and caution about doing it at all: 

I’ve never seen this done but perhaps in smaller companies this would be acceptable.  Such a form would be extremely simple and need to contain only one or two lines. 

My own opinion is that I would stay away from doing this at all.  Best case is employees are fine with it but it doesn’t likely accomplish much.  Worse case is it brings up the issue of age descrimination.  Once your birthday is posted company-wide, everyone knows your age.  If you feel that you were discriminated against because of age, the fact that it was posted for all to see could work against the Company’s interest.

In short, Mark implies that if even only an employee’s birthday month with date are posted, attention to the year of birth will be a matter of inquiry and/or talk. And that could make nnore possible of an accusation of age discrimination against a company.

Associate Workplace Doctor Tina Lewis Rowe also stresses caution about any thing that would draw attention to age. But she acknowledges the reality of attention to and concern about birthdays. You can see her advice fully (Is it legal to post birthdays at work?  February 25, 2010  Tina Lewis Rowe https://workplacedr.comm.kent.edu/is-it-legal-to-post-birthdays-at-work/). One paragraph signals caution and another acknowledge attention to birthdays:

Caution. There are no specific laws about posting birth dates and many offices do so. However, birth YEARS should not be posted, not only as a courtesy but to avoid any accusation that such posting leads to discrimination about age. It might add to someone’s case if they later feel their age is an issue in employment practices-and the act of posting the year may start that kind of thinking, especially if some employees make a big deal about either youth or age.I think it’s not good to ever refer to someone’s specific age for that reason. (That’s also why there should not be any “over the hill” parties, no matter how well meant they are.

Acknowledging. Admittedly, there are some people who don’t like the fuss of being told Happy Birthday or similar aspects of celebrating birthdays–and that can be understandable. However, the purpose behind the birthday remembrance is usually positive and to argue about it makes one appear really unpleasant. It’s such a small thing that most people just go with it. Besides, in most offices people are fully aware of birthdays and can get them through various sources anyway.

Perhaps your Q&A with the few thoughts we provide for Reflection will enable you to prepare a form or choose not to. Please let us know and we’ll share what we learn. Working together with hands, head and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden