Q. My office likes to celebrate Halloween. With all the talk about “creepy clowns,” should I be worried that our celebration will get out of hand?
A. Creepy clowns are making national headlines as clown sightings spread throughout the country and on social media. Whether the clown prank turns more sinister remains to be seen. In the meantime, however, ‘tis the season of goblins and ghouls, and now is a good time to remind employees of some do’s and don’ts to maintain professional decorum while celebrating the Halloween holiday:
- Update dress codes to provide costume guidelines. Employers should shudder at the thought of skimpy costumes, plastic weapons or costumes depicting the religion or national origin of others. To the extent that you allow employees to wear costumes at all, remind them that costumes should be appropriate for the workplace. Keep in mind that the Company’s equal employment opportunity and sexual harassment policies apply at all times, even (especially!) during holiday events.
- Provide guidelines for office decorations. The same concerns regarding costumes apply to office decorations. While it may be fun to hang spiders and put out pumpkins, make sure employees refrain from decorating the office in a manner that would offend a co-worker’s religion, national origin, or other protected category.
- Allow employees to opt out if they want to. Some employees may not celebrate Halloween for religious reasons. Forcing them to join the group could turn the fun into a lawsuit.
- Likewise, if an employee asks for time off to celebrate the religious aspect of All Hallow’s Eve, keep in mind the company’s obligation to accommodation a sincerely held religious belief unless to do so would cause an undue hardship.
- If alcohol is going to be served at a Halloween party, make sure to serve food too. Limit the number of hours that the bar is open, or provide drink tickets so that employees do not get too carried away. If an employee appears to be intoxicated, make sure they have a way to get home safely.
Finally, update your security procedures during the holiday season. If an unknown individual does try to enter your workplace in a creepy clown costume or other inappropriate attire, err on the safe side and alert the authorities.