Office Halloween celebrations can be a nice way to bring employees (and sometimes even employees’ families) together at work. Pumpkin carving contests and costume parties can give everyone a nice little breather before the holiday madness hits, and there’s nothing wrong with a little fall celebration. When Halloween costumes come into play, however, tensions can arise when someone is offended. Employers can avoid liability by setting dress standards for costumes, and employees must use common sense when choosing appropriate costumes to wear in the workplace.
Does This Costume Make Me Look Too Sexy?
As long as you are not committing a sexual act, you’re most likely legally okay going as a “naughty nurse” or “sex robot” costume to a private party where children are not present. Your workplace’s HR department, however, will probably not appreciate such a costume. One complaint from fellow employees could get you disciplined or fired. Keep the questionable fun at home. If your costume crosses the line of decency and good, clean fun, don’t wear it to work! Halloween is a fun time to pretend, but actions that are meant to be funny still make an impression.
Setting Costume Guidelines
As an employer, you can be held liable for offending an employee by allowing potentially-offensive costumes at work. The very celebration of Halloween is considered offensive in some cultures, so specifically set guidelines asking employees to avoid costumes that create a hostile environment or potential for a sexual harassment suit. Ask employees to leave fake weapons at home and keep costumes G-rated. Also specifically prohibit costumes that are demeaning to certain political parties, religions, nationalities, or people with illnesses. Disney Princess? Probably fine, with less cleavage — if you’re a woman. A cowboy (sans spurs), or lumberjack (sans ax), are among some non-offensive Halloween costumes you could get away with at work.
Apart from avoiding blinding masks and distracting wigs, costumes should not be overly bulky or include sharp/jutting objects or tripping hazards like high heels or capes. You can also avoid getting punched in the face by not dressing up as your boss or a coworker–avoid doing that. Bring a change of clothes in case you are asked to change, and don’t throw a fit if you are asked to do so.
Use common sense when picking your costumes, thinking about what might make certain people at work feel uncomfortable. Be safe, be respectful, and have fun!