For many adults, Halloween has come to be identified with risqué costumes, pranks, and overall debauchery. Although many companies are tempted to lighten up and allow employees to celebrate Halloween at work, it is important to set boundaries.
If your company is going to bravely wade into the spooky legal minefield of a Halloween party, the first place to start is a dress code. Office Halloween parties are no place for “sexy” outfits, political statements or costumes that might be offensive based on a protected class such as race or gender. Simply, companies should have a dress code for Halloween for the same reasons most have a dress code for regular office attire – without rules, some employees will not know where to draw the line on good taste and offensive attire.
Here are some ideas on how to approach an office Halloween party dress code:
- Encourage employees to be fun and creative, but leave the revealing costumes for outside the workplace.
- Provide basic guidelines on what types of costumes may be considered inappropriate.
- Consider a themed Halloween party which will allow employees input and an opportunity to focus employees towards more appropriate ideas for costumes.
- Even better, encourage departments to come up with their own theme and coordinating costumes which will encourage teamwork.
- Refer to your Human Resources manager to handle any disputes or complaints over inappropriate costumes.
Even the most politically correct Halloween celebration, however, may still find those employees who in the office are offended. To avoid these conflicts, consider making attendance at office Halloween parties (or costumes) optional. The anti-harassment policy should not be thrown out the window for holidays, and employees should be reminded that, above all, coworkers should be treated with respect and left alone if they do not want to join in any Halloween activities.
Although employers may be tempted to do away with Halloween parties in fear of harassment lawsuits or complaints about offensive costumes, it pays to be proactive when it comes to issues like sexual harassment in the workplace and following these practical tips can allow employees to have a little fun without the legal risk. After all, a little fun and camaraderie in the workplace is an important retention tool and, in the long run, may actually reduce the risk of employment litigation.
Kendrick Law Group 407-641-5847 or firstname.lastname@example.org