Q. An employee objected to us putting her name (just her first name!) on our company’s “Holiday Greetings from Our Staff” card. She said she doesn’t celebrate holidays for religious reasons and using her name without permission was illegal. The boss said she should “get over it.” Did we set ourselves up for a lawsuit? — Anonymous
A. In some states, such as New York, it is a violation of a statutory privacy right to use someone’s name or likeness for commercial purposes without his or her authorization. An argument can be made that this is what’s happening here. Cautious employers should first obtain consent before using employees’ names and photos in promotional material, such as commercials, web sites, holiday cards, etc.
If your workers are at-will employees, you may be able to condition their continued employment on signing an authorization permitting the use of their names, as long as they’re not used for discriminatory purposes.