Employers Beware: Five Tips for Celebrating Halloween in the Workplace

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With the leaves changing color and the days getting shorter, Halloween is fast approaching. Halloween can present a number of scary challenges for employers, ranging from time off requests to workplace safety to potential sexual harassment liability and more. Here are five issues for employers to keep in mind with respect to Halloween and the workplace:

1. Issue Firm Guidelines Regarding Costumes

Because some employees may wish to dress up for Halloween, employers should be sure to issue clear guidelines alerting employees as to what is permissible in terms of costumes in the workplace.

It is best practice to advise employees to steer clear of costumes which may be viewed as discriminatory, offensive, racist or in bad taste. Costumes that are inappropriate and too sexy, low cut and revealing may make co-workers uncomfortable and lead to sexual harassment claims. Further, certain costumes may be especially inappropriate for a particular workplace (i.e., blood, gore and skeletons in a doctor’s office or hospital).

2. Make Safety a Priority

Employers should strive to make safety a priority and minimize the risk of any injury employer may be face with compensable injuries and workers’ compensation claims. As a result, employers should take safety issues into account when issuing any costume guidelines.

This means making sure that any office decorations, or decorations employees are permitted to have in their work areas, comply with all fire and safety codes. If employees work in manufacturing, with chemicals or with heavy or dangerous equipment, certain costumes may be a safety hazard.

Employers also should ban all costumes featuring guns and weapons as this is not appropriate for the workplace and may encourage workplace violence.

3. The Pros and Cons of Having a Halloween Celebration

Employers may view Halloween as a perfect time to have a casual happy hour or work- related event to encourage camaraderie and increase employee morale. However, employers should aim to keep the atmosphere light and monitor employee conduct as well as the consumption of any alcohol in order to avoid any potential for employer liability.

Employers should advise employees to act professionally and treat all co-workers with respect. They also should designate a clear starting time and ending time for the party so that employees are able to be productive and get some work done that day.

Additionally, employers should not make participation mandatory or conduct any work-related business at the celebration as some employees may not want to participate for religious reasons or because they believe celebrating Halloween in the workplace is inappropriate.

4. Use Halloween to Show You Are a Family Friendly Employer

Employers may use Halloween as a time to show that they are family friendly employer either by permitting employees to take time off from work or telecommute that day so they may attend Halloween events at school or go trick or treating during daylight hours.

Employers also may wish to open up their workplace and have the children of employees come to show off their costumes and trick or treat throughout the workplace.

5. Accommodate Employees’ Religious Beliefs

In celebrating Halloween, employers need to take employees’ religious beliefs into account and provide reasonable accommodations based on religion. Some employees may view Halloween as a religious holiday and seek to take time off to observe. Others may practice a religion which forbids any celebration of Halloween.

It is important for employers to proceed cautiously and make sure to respect and accommodate all religious beliefs when it comes to Halloween.

Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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