Halloween in the Workplace

Now that fall is in full swing, Halloween is just around the corner.  Lots of people generally view Halloween as a holiday for children, but each year, more and more adults are dressing up and even in the workplace.  Data has shown that over 157 million Americans celebrate Halloween each year.  Some companies have seen and used Halloween as a reason to do something fun and boost morale around the workplace, but there are dangers to allowing your employees dress up in costumes either at work or a party,  and there are alternative ways to celebrate. 

Dangers

If a workplace allows its employees to dress up on Halloween with limited guidelines, there can often be issues.  For example, some people may dress up in costumes that they personally believe is fine, but other’s may take offense to it.  A few years ago, a young woman in Michigan dressed up for work as a Boston Marathon victim.  The pictures went viral on social media and she was swiftly terminated from her position. 

Other dangers may include sexual harassment and racial discrimination.  Revealing costumes may lead to unwanted attention and advancements from co-workers, especially if alcohol is involved.  For this reason, employees should remember that some costumes might be fine for a night out, but not at a work function. 

Halloween can be a hotbed for racial insensitivity, and employers should place a ban on any of these types of costumes.  There have been examples of skits or costumes that forced an employee to claim racial discrimination, which then led to litigation.  Every employee should feel comfortable and welcome, so such skits or costumes should not be allowed.  Actor Robert Downey Jr. portrayed a black character in the movie “Tropic Thunder,” and there was a large racial backlash.  It would be best for the employer to avoid any of these issues by clearly defining what is acceptable to wear for a costume. 

Ways to Avoid Problems

-          Clearly communicate costume guidelines so that everyone understands what is and what isn’t acceptable for work.

-          Provide examples of costumes and behavior that is/is not appropriate.

-          Clearly communicate that participating is voluntary.   

Alternatives

-          Have pumpkin decorating or similar activities.

-          Create an opportunity to give back to the community, such as donating candy or money for those in need. 

-          Put up fall/Halloween decorations in the breakroom.