Halloween festivities in the office are certainly fun for employees and can help promote a more social working environment. But, Halloween at the office brings forth a list of challenges for the employer. Although Halloween is meant to be festive, employers must be prepared in the event that an employee uses poor judgment or something is misinterpreted (or correctly interpreted) as harassment.
Allowing costumes or festivities at work is certainly tricky. Employers can be held liable for something as small as an employee tripping over a costume part. With some employers permitting after hours Halloween parties on work premises, the exposures to liability increases, especially if alcohol is permitted.
All compensable injuries aside though, the most common issues lie with permitting Halloween costumes in the office. There is potential for a harassment claim in the workplace if an employee is offended or comments are made that originate from a costume choice. Many costumes carry political, social, sexual or religious messages that are inappropriate for employee/employer interaction.
Inappropriate costumes can quickly be seen as creating a hostile work environment and lead to litigation. If your workplace is going to plan a Halloween Party, and has considered the potential risks, make sure you’ve covered your bases when it comes to policies. Here are some helpful tips:
Review the Past: If this is not your first workplace Halloween celebration, review the past. Were there any complaints? Did everything go according to plan? How can you make things better for both the employer and the employee this year?
Create a set of Costume Guidelines: Guidelines issued to employees should alert them that failure to follow the established guidelines will result in discipline. Employees will still be at work, and it’s important to remind them of your professional culture prior to the celebration. Potential clients or customers could also be interacting with them, not just fellow employees. Make sure every employee knows that their costume choice and behavior also represent the company. Provocative costumes and anything that could be misinterpreted as offensive, is not a good choice. If they’re questioning their decision to wear a certain costume, chances are it is not a good choice. Guidelines should also eliminate costumes or props that pose potential safety hazards.
Lead by Example: Executives and management serve as role models and set examples for employees. Assume the same rules and guidelines you have set for your employees.
Offer Alternative Ways to Celebrate: Your employees may be just as thrilled with a great luncheon or an early dismissal for the day, to trick or treat with their families or celebrate on their own terms.
React: If an employee shows up to work in a revealing costume, ask them to go home and change. If you foresee any problems, prevent them. Just because there is a celebration, it does not mean that your company’s policies have changed.
For more HR tips, contact HR Shield.