Here’s a question that spooks employers every year about this time: should you allow costumes at work? For many employers, the answer is an outright “no way.” A decision to disallow costumes may be based on business reasons such as upholding a professional image or for safety reasons – costumes don’t work well in every environment. Or for many other employers, it’s simply not worth taking on the additional liability risk.
But other employers see the holiday as a fun time to build team spirit and camaraderie given that Halloween ranks second after Christmas in terms of holiday popularity. If you are among the employers who choose to allow costumes, forewarned is forearmed. Set expectations in advance about what is and isn’t allowed – no risque costumes; no costumes that might be perceived as racially, ethnically, religiously, or politically offensive; and no costumes that could be a safety hazard. Human Resources Executive poses some spooky legal scenarios along with some advice. Also see SHRM‘s advice in their article Allowing Halloween Costumes at Work Can Be Tricky, along with some legal advice from HR Tools, Costumes at Work? Avoid Liability Nightmare at Halloween. (Although here’s an unusual case that turns the tables: Halloween Photos Can Be Used in Harassment Case)
One idea that we advocate: many experts suggest alternative celebrations in lieu of at-work costumes. Here are a few ideas:

  • Have a family event geared to kids. Let kids and pets come in costumes
  • Organize a “trick or treat” event for a local nursing home or have an event to raise money for a charity. A zombie walk might be fun!
  • Sponsor a pumpkin carving contest
  • Let people decorate their offices and work stations
  • Have a Halloween pot-luck lunch with themed food
  • Sponsor a blood drive on Halloween and offer treats for participants

For more thoughts, we call your attention to advice we offered in a prior year’s post: Halloween in the Workplace. In addition to advice, there are also some costume and Halloween party food tips.


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