It’s that time of the year again- Halloween, also known as “All Hallows’ Evening”. Many a CEO or business owner is tempted to let employees “dress up” for the day, humanize the workplace a little bit. Allow their teams to display some personality, and bring some pizazz to the office. Overall, this is not a bad time of the year to allow a little fun.
Don’t let the fun turn into a nightmare scenario for you. When adults come out and play, Halloween costumes can get overly sexy (I know, I know- you’ve never seen this happen), or mock racial, religious, or political beliefs that may offend another employee. Before you know it, you’re getting served with a workplace discrimination lawsuit. How can you avoid this spooky situation, and still allow for a little fun at the office?
As with most things Human Resources related, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. While you cannot completely eliminate the risk that an employee will get offended, you can certainly mitigate that risk by following a few easy steps.
First things first. If you’re going to allow for a little fun in the workplace this Halloween, communication with your Managers is key. Meet with your Management staff and discuss the holiday, and how some in the workplace might find the holiday objectionable due to their religious beliefs. For this reason, Managers should communicate to their teams that it is perfectly okay NOT to participate in dressing up to work on that day, and if an employee requests to work from home and it won’t impact their work- this reasonable accommodation should be made. Any costume contests, office décor contests, parties, or activities related to the holiday should be communicated to staff as “voluntary” and no employee should be forced to partake.
Next, you should communicate that Halloween is not a day (or an excuse) to toss the company dress code out the window. While it is okay for them to dress up, it should be communicated to all staff that the main parts of your company’s dress code will still be enforced. You want to get the message across to your staff that costumes that may offend a colleague, or worse- a client, will not be tolerated. Period. If possible, give examples of costumes that comply with your dress code, and those that don’t. I suspect this being a Presidential election cycle and with the new Star Wars movie set to be released in December, you’re going to be seeing a lot of Donald Trump and Hans Solo costumes.
Lastly, I can guarantee you that even though you take the two necessary precautions above- someone will still end up coming to work in an inappropriate costume. Consider when communicating the Halloween holiday’s work rules for the day asking those employees who will be coming in costume to bring a change of clothing in the event their chosen attire is deemed inappropriate. Also inform them that not doing so may result in their being sent home for the day should their costume not meet the company’s communicated guidelines.
I know what you’re thinking, all this for a day of fun? Yes, and believe me- you’ll thank me if you still end of with the nightmarish scenario of having an employee file a claim.