Halloween Dos and Don’ts at the Office
By Joshua C. Black, Esq.
Celebrating holidays isn’t out of the norm for many workplaces. As Halloween approaches, employees and employers may be contemplating how to commemorate the festive occasion without making co-workers uncomfortable – or violating any human resources rules or company guidelines.
When it comes to dressing up, employees should use common sense when selecting Halloween costumes to be worn in the workplace. If you are unsure if your costume is “work appropriate,” reach out to your manager or human resources specialist beforehand to get their opinion on your costume.
When planning your get-up, avoid anything overtly sexual or scary, and in today’s climate, it’s also best to steer away from any politically-inspired costumes or controversial outfits.
As you determine your Halloween costume, it is also a good idea to consider the type of business you are in and who you will encounter while in costume. Do you have meetings with clients or stakeholders that day? Will you be attending activities outside the office? Can you do your job safely in the attire you are wearing? Is your costume appropriate for your position at the organization? Costumes should be family friendly, not interfere with your ability to perform your job and not be disruptive to co-workers or customers.
In general, even on Halloween, most employers require employees to adhere to certain minimum professionalism and dress code standards while at work. These specifications are usually laid out in the employee handbook, but when in doubt, it is better to be safe than sorry and err on the side of subtle.
If you wear a uniform at work, get specific permission from your supervisor before making any alterations. You may think it’s fun to add devil horns or a witch hat to your uniform, but you don’t want to go against company policies.
If an employee is wearing inappropriate attire in the workplace - on Halloween or any other day - an employer may take action they deem necessary to address the situation. This could range from sending the employee home to change to a verbal or written reprimand or potential termination, if the offense is a severe or pervasive enough problem.
While most Americans find Halloween a fun-filled day of treats and dress up, it is important to remember and respect that not all co-workers feel this way. If an employee would rather not participate in Halloween festivities, an employer should not force partaking or require dressing up in costume.
Employers should never make holiday-centered celebrations mandatory at work - no matter the holiday. Instead, business owners should respect each team member's personal preferences and religious beliefs and focus on making the workplace an inclusive environment.
It is uncommon for an employer to force a staff member to participate in a work event that requires dressing up. However, if an employer asks employees to wear costumes to work in celebration of Halloween and an employee has a personal or religious objection to doing so, they should have a private conversation with the employer. Business owners asking employees to participate in Halloween events should be willing to make reasonable accommodations to ensure workers’ rights or beliefs aren’t violated.
Before October 31, business owners or managers should clearly communicate expectations and guidelines about Halloween costumes and activities in writing - whether it’s in an official employee handbook, a company email or a flier - to ensure no issues arise. Providing employees with a roadmap to a safe and kind Halloween celebration will make sure everyone is on the same page for a day of tricks and treats.
If you feel you have been unfairly discriminated against at your place of employment, or would like to speak with an Arizona employment attorney regarding your experiences, contact the Law Office of Joshua Black PLC, at (623) 738-2225.