October 2018 - Halloween Costumes. . . In the Workplace?

Some companies really look forward to dressing up in costumes for Halloween; their clients get a kick out of it, and it's an employee morale booster.

Halloween should be fun, but watch out for pitfalls when employees overstep their bounds when celebrating the holiday. 

It's obvious to many that, especially with the growing #MeToo movement, costumes depicting figures associated with sexual harassment are offensive. But some employees still haven't gotten the memo.

"Sexual harassment is never funny, and costumes that attempt to make that connection are as offensive as costumes that would make light of child abuse," said Dave Jones, president of PassionWorks, an employee engagement firm.

Employers should think about banning any Halloween costume depicting a celebrity, because so many high-profile people are being "celebrated" for less-than-ideal behavior. Costumes mocking any religion, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity are out of the question.

What about political themed costumes? Keep in mind that an attempt at political humor may be misunderstood and create a source of tension between employees, especially in these politically charged times. Employees need to remember that they will be working in the same environment after Halloween.

Experts suggest that it's best to head off potential problems by setting costume guidelines for employees in advance. It's important to remind staff that fun will always be one of our values, as will respect, so when you choose the costume you wear to our office (or to our party), try to reflect both of these values and you will be OK.

Just like with your company’s dress code, you can give employees some general examples of what costumes are acceptable and which to stay away from!

By Beth Willander, SHRM

October 15, 2018


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