The days when Halloween was a holiday only children looked forward to are long over. Kids might have a monopoly on trick-or-treating, but adults have embraced the “spirit” of Halloween with an equal fervor in recent years. Whether they’re reliving their lost youths or simply looking for an excuse to dress up and party, Halloween is now an all-ages affair. Festivities often cross over into the workplace, which can present a dilemma for the HR department when it comes to dress code rules.
When Halloween Costumes Cross the Line
Many companies choose to celebrate Halloween in an attempt to foster camaraderie, build teamwork, reduce workplace stress, and provide a break from the routine. Halloween parties, potlucks, and costume contests are popular ways to have a little fun and allow people to show off their creativity. Doing so, however, can be fraught with peril – especially when costumes are racy, offensive, or otherwise inappropriate. Not only do you run the risk of upsetting employees, you might also be setting yourself up for possible litigation. If an employee is being teased for his or her costume choice, they could file a harassment claim – and that’s neither a trick nor a treat!
In order to keep Halloween fun and lighthearted in your workplace, we suggest the following tips.
- Establish costume guidelines in advance. Let your employees know beforehand what types of costumes are allowed and include examples of inappropriate costumes and others that might pose safety hazards.
- Some costumes should never be allowed. Be especially sensitive to costumes that are especially likely to offend others. Costumes depicting political figures and religious icons are sure to be viewed as disrespectful. Likewise, sexy or provocative attire is an absolute no-no.
- Even otherwise innocent costumes might be inappropriate for your line of work. Having one of your doctors dress as the Grim Reaper when meeting patients is a bad idea on many levels! Be cognizant of your industry and whether your employees will interact with the public.
- Don’t be afraid to discipline if necessary. Just because it’s Halloween doesn’t mean your employees can act in a manner that would otherwise be deemed inappropriate. If anybody crosses the line, be sure to follow your established disciplinary protocol.
- Consider alternative ways to celebrate. If establishing and enforcing a costume policy is too daunting, come up with other ways for your employees to celebrate. Offering a catered luncheon or allowing children of employees to trick-or-treat in the office are excellent alternatives to a full-blown celebration.