Costumes, booze and the Great Pumpkin – beware the office Halloween party

October 25th, 2018 by Adam Gutmann


This blog was written by Adam Gutmann at Cozen O'Connor, which authors our Minnesota Human Resources Manual, New York Human Resources Manual, and Pennsylvania Human Resources Manual. You can find the original post and their HR Headaches blog (good stuff) on their website.

Halloween in the Workplace – What Could Go Wrong?

Adam Gutmann

October 31st is right around the corner, and in workplaces all across the U.S. employers are contemplating having some kind of Halloween party or inviting employees to dress up. On its face, it seems like a great idea. Halloween can be a fun way to break the monotony of everyday office life (and is a convenient excuse to eat embarrassing amounts of candy) but with it comes a unique set of pitfalls. Here, we touch on a number of those pitfalls and ways to avoid them.

First and foremost, as is applicable to all other office functions, alcohol and Halloween may seem like a fun idea, but is generally not advisable. If you choose to serve alcohol at your Halloween event, drinks should be limited and monitored by a third party. Licensed mobile bartending services are a convenient way to check both of these boxes. Also, always encourage safe transport home. If alcohol is served, consider whether to give out an Uber or Lyft code to provide employees with an easy (and free) way to get home afterward.

Second, Halloween just isn’t the same without costumes, but you will want to provide some basic guidance to your employees ahead of time on what is ok to wear. At a minimum you should communicate the following costume “no-fly-zones”:  generally, avoiding political or socially charged themes (especially these days) is a must, as is steering clear of costumes that could be construed as offensive – particularly if they could be viewed as offensive to a certain protected class of individuals. Also, Halloween is not an opportunity to dress provocatively at work, and it should be made clear that revealing costumes are off limits.  Think ahead of time, and designate someone in management / HR to be responsible for fielding any questions or complaints about employee costumes. If anything does come up, you’ll be glad you did.

Third, it is important to keep in mind employees’ personal preferences and beliefs, especially those that may be religious-based. Without getting into the various issues that this raises (think Title VII), most problems in this regard can be avoided by making costumes and parties completely optional. Employees should be free to participate or not without pressure or influence from coworkers or managers.

Keeping these issues in mind, and giving them some advance thought and planning can help employers prevent a whole array of HR nightmares.



Related posts

Holiday stew – ingredients for a happy and non-litigious holiday

Holiday stew – we all have our own recipe, but the base is almost always the same: booze, mistletoe and a generous pinch of unapproved time off. And be sure you don't have enough time to prepare or clean up. Join Gary Wheeler and Lori Mans for an hour as they provide the ingredients and know-h... ..read more

If it's called a dress code, can I wear pants?

This blog was written by Natasha Sarah-Lorraine Banks at Fisher Phillips, which authors several of our resources.  When Strict Dress Codes Went Out Of Style: The Modernization Of Workwear “Every day is a fashion show, and the world is your runway.” – Unknown This modern-day old adage giv... ..read more

"We need to talk" isn't any easier to say than to hear

This blog was written by Mathew Parker at Fisher Phillips, which authors several of our resources. You can find the original here and their On the Front Lines Workplace Law Newsletter (which is excellent) here.   We Need to Talk: 5 Tips For Conducting Difficult Workplace Conversations ... ..read more

Dress codes should not be encoded

Translation: lay it all out ahead of time (dress code pun) and be clear. The Hartford Small Business Ahead blog provides five tips: Have an answer for "Why not?" other than "Because your Furoshikis* look silly" Send out reminders – like now, before the dress code begins to suffer the d... ..read more

Personal hygiene in the workplace

When you took your job in HR, you knew that you would have to face some uncomfortable situations: terminations, poor performance reviews, disciplinary actions, but perhaps the worst of all is the “we need to talk about your personal hygiene” conversation. Your staff’s poor personal hygiene can ne... ..read more

Dress codes: who, what, wear

As an HR representative or business owner it’s your responsibility to make sure things run smoothly, and sometimes that means enforcing rules or standards that your employees may not want to follow. Dress codes and appearance guidelines are a good way for employers to not only ensure their workfo... ..read more

Holiday party what-would-you-dos

This blog was written by Robin Shea at Constangy, which authors our Model Policies and Forms for Georgia Employers and our New Jersey Human Resources Manual. You can find the original on their Employment & Labor Insider blog (which is one of our favorites and is excellent).   Second-gue... ..read more

Save the Office Holiday Party

The primary barrier to a holiday office party is: booze dietary restrictions White Elephant gift exchange deciding who to invite: vendors/significant others/kids/pets/foreign exchange students/HR (which is why we usually plan the party)  #MeToo the boss insists on showing up mon... ..read more

Carnac the Magnificent says – Politicussin

This blog was written by Aaron Warshaw at Ogletree Deakins, which authors our Model Policies and Forms for Tennessee Employers, Massachusetts Human Resources Manual, Colorado Human Resources Manual, and Employee Benefits – An Employer's Guide. You can find the original blog post and their Our Ins... ..read more

Depression – what can an employer do?

Depression is an illness. Depression can be treated. Depression should not be ignored. And the holidays can carry lots of triggers: sentimental memories, loneliness, less sunlight, changes in diet/routine, alcohol at parties, end-of-year timelines at work, unrealistic expectations. What can... ..read more

Help hiring holiday help here

This blog was written by John Monroe and Kristina Griffin at FordHarrison, which authors our "Hiring, Firing and Discipline for Employers" and "An Employer's Guide to FMLA and ADA". You can find the original blog post and their Legal Alerts on their website.   Welcome to the Holiday Season!... ..read more

Year-end or holiday incentives

Year-end or holiday incentives – you need to know the rules: … First rule: make the winner penguin-happy.   ..read more

Holidays

The summer can bring up several employment issues, including discipline and dress code violations, but one of the biggest issues is just getting employees to show up! With holidays and vacations, warmer summer months often result in lower attendance, which can translate to a loss in productivity.... ..read more

Thanks-giving isn't just about turkeys - include the good employees too

This blog was written by Bobbi Britton Tucker at Cozen O'Connor, which authors our Minnesota Human Resources Manual, New York Human Resources Manual, and Pennsylvania Human Resources Manual. You can find the original post and their HR Headaches blog (good stuff) on their website.   The Impo... ..read more

Cursing, surfing, weapons, gadgets – illegal, inappropriate or OK?

It happens in almost every workplace almost every day: somebody swears or is on an iffy website or is carrying a knife (or worse) or is using their own (not secure) phone or computer to send off a quick business email or text. So what is illegal, what is inappropriate and what is just not that... ..read more

TN – A drug-free workplace program is good

This blog was written by William S. Rutchow at Ogletree Deakins, author of our Model Policies and Forms for Tennessee Employers. Ogletree also authors our Massachusetts Human Resources Manual, Colorado Human Resources Manual, and Employee Benefits – An Employer's Guide. You can find the original ... ..read more

The #1 office perk is . . . ?

Natural light Natty Light Spam Lite Lite-Brite Blinded by the Light Any answer except #1, Natural light, may not be correct. Have a good Friday. ..read more

List 10 Up: Top tips for starting a workplace incident interview

PODCAST Workplace investigations can either stall out without any clear answer, or instead succeed and lead to a conclusion, depending on the effectiveness of the interviews. However, many people conducting interviews skip simple steps at the very outset that maximize their effectiveness.  ... ..read more

Is that red light flashing?

This blog was written by Zoe Argento and Julia Arnold at Littler Mendelson, which authors our Model Policies and Forms for Maine Employers. You can find the original post and their Insight News & Analysis (which is excellent) on their website.   Hit the Pause Button: The Implications of... ..read more

Round up stew: sick leave, harassment, non-compete, etc.

This blog was written by Shennan Harris at Squire Patton Boggs. Shennan is a co-author of our Wages and Hours – An Employer's Guide. You can find the original blog post and their Employment Law Worldview on their website.   State Law Round-Up: New Sick Leave, Sexual Harassment Laws and Othe... ..read more

Identifying trade secrets does not mean figuring out how to barter better

This blog was written by Emma Schuering and Eric Packel at Polsinelli. Polsinelli authors hrsimple resources in Missouri, Kansas and Illinois. You can find the original blog post and their labor and employment blog Polsinelli at Work (which is excellent) on their website.   Identifying trad... ..read more

Milk Stork delivers for working mom's and their baby

If you are in the practice of sending employees on overnight business trips AND you employ new mothers AND you believe in treating your employees right we’ve got just the bird for you.  Milk Stork is the first breast milk shipping company to support nursing mothers who are on the road and need... ..read more

Biometrics in the workplace - not a measure of bios accumulated by an employee

This blog was written by Karen Glickstein at Polsinelli, which authors hrsimple resources in Missouri, Kansas and Illinois. You can find the original blog post and their labor and employment blog Polsinelli at Work (which is excellent) on their website.   Don’t Leave a Print: Biometric Comp... ..read more

Controlling the political speech of buttons*

This blog was written by Danielle Krauthamer and Setareh Ebrahimian at Fisher Phillips, which authors our South Carolina Human Resources Manual, Model Policies and Forms for Missouri Employers, Model Policies and Forms for Kansas Employers, and Workplace Safety and Health Compliance Manual. You c... ..read more

Election leave – employer's civic duty, migraine, or just wishful thinking (election, leave!)

This blog was written by Deidra Nguyen at Littler Mendelson, which authors our Model Policies and Forms for Maine Employers. You can find the original post and their Dear Littler (which is excellent) on their website.   Dear Littler: What is the Story with Employee Election Leave? Deidra... ..read more

Disability/pregnancy practices – what not to practice

This blog was written by Robin Shea at Constangy, which authors our Model Policies and Forms for Georgia Employers and our New Jersey Human Resources Manual. You can find the original on their Employment & Labor Insider blog (which is one of our favorites and is excellent).   Employers,... ..read more

IL – Required expense reimbursement for your employees, not Bill Self

This blog was written by Peter Gillespie at Laner Muchin who are authors of our "Illinois Human Resources Manual". You can find the original blog post and their Fast Laner newsletter on their website.   Illinois Employers Should Review Expense Reimbursement Policies Peter Gillespie Ef... ..read more

Public disclosure of confidential information is easier than you think

This blog was written by Tina Syring at Cozen O'Connor, which authors our Minnesota Human Resources Manual, New York Human Resources Manual, and Pennsylvania Human Resources Manual. You can find the original post and their HR Headaches blog (good stuff) on their website.   Do You Know What ... ..read more

If religious accommodation and a flu shot both equal angst, is that the transitive or substitution property?

This blog was written by David Broderick at Littler Mendelson, which authors our Model Policies and Forms for Maine Employers. Dear Littler: Do We Have to Accommodate A Religious Objection to the Flu Shot? David Broderick at Littler Mendelson Dear Littler: I work in a health care setting... ..read more

Workplace shootings – 20 can-dos to prevent them

This blog was written by Debra Friedman, contributor to our New York Human Resources Manual, at Cozen O'Connor, which also authors our Pennsylvania Human Resources Manual and Minnesota Human Resources Manual. You can find the original post and their HR Headaches blog (good stuff) on their website... ..read more

No call/no show shows. No what about it.

No call. No show. Assume they quit. Find a replacement. Move on. Then who shows up but Ms. Nocall Noshow. Now what? Depends on what happened, your policy, potential laws (ADA? FMLA?), disabilities, stuff, junk. SHRM helps, with help from our author Fisher Phillips and long-time friend... ..read more

TN: Conceal and carry means post to prohibit or permit

This blog was written by William S. Rutchow at Ogletree Deakins, author of our Model Policies and Forms for Tennessee Employers. Ogletree also authors our Massachusetts Human Resources Manual, Colorado Human Resources Manual, and Employee Benefits – An Employer's Guide. You can find the original ... ..read more

Four-legged office mates and the pawternity policies they benefit

This blog was written by Danielle Krauthamer at Fisher Phillips, which authors several of our resources. You can find the original post and the On the Front Lines newsletter on their website.   Pawternity Leave: Are Employers Barking Up the Wrong Tree With Pet-Based Leave? We’ve all hear... ..read more

School-related parental leave does not mean you forge a note from your kid

This blog was written by Jason Plowman at Polsinelli. Polsinelli authors hrsimple resources in Missouri, Kansas and Illinois. You can find the original blog post and their labor and employment blog Polsinelli at Work (which is excellent) on their website.   Back to School Edition: School-... ..read more

Background checks of the future are continuous

This blog was written by Spencer Waldron at Fisher Phillips, which authors several of our resources. You can find the original post and the Employment Privacy Blog (which is excellent) on their website.   How Much Do You Really Want to Know About Your Employees? The Growing Popularity of Co... ..read more

Treating service animal requests (always treat the animal)

Service animal pop quiz (yes/no): The ADA permits assistance dogs to be with their person where members of the public can go (yes) The ADA requires service dogs to be professionally trained (no) Minature horses are covered under the ADA and Great Danes can be the size of miniature horse... ..read more

Prepare for saying "No" – you need to decide how to refuse service

This blog was written by Seth Ford and Matt Anderson at Troutman Sanders, author of the Georgia Human Resources Manual. You can find the original article and their HR Law Matters blog on their website.   A Plan for Saying No: How to Refuse Service Refusing to serve a patron is a hot topic... ..read more

List 10 up: What's the deal with employee handbook rules?

PODCAST Spend 20 minutes with Ruthie Goodboe from our author Ogletree Deakins as she discusses employer work rules and employee handbook policies and practices in the podcast What's the deal with employee handbook rules? List 10 up: covers union AND non-union workers employees raisi... ..read more

No, you can't sleep on the job

This blog was written by Shelby Skeabeck, formerly of Shawe Rosenthal, author of our Maryland Human Resources Manual. You can find the original blog post here and their Labor & Employment Report newsletter (which is excellent) here.   No, You Can’t Sleep on the Job, Especially when it’s... ..read more

Should you give your employees a little Slack – or do they have enough already?

This blog was written by Caroline Pham and Collin Cook at Fisher Phillips, which authors several of our resources. You can find the original here and their On the Front Lines Workplace Law Newsletter (which is excellent) here.   Are Your Employees “Slackers”? How Employers Should Handle Sla... ..read more

Zero tolerance for "zero tolerance" policies

This blog was written by Robin Shea at Constangy, which authors our Model Policies and Forms for Georgia Employers. You can find the original here and their Employment & Labor Insider blog (which is one of our favorites and is excellent) here.   Zero tolerance for "zero tolerance" polic... ..read more

PTO on the house!

This blog was written by Kat Cunnignham, president of Moresource Inc., a member of the Missouri Chamber. You can find the original blog post on the mobile edition of Missouri Chamber's Missouri Business   Traditionally, most companies have offered a paid leave package to employees that diff... ..read more

New rules for work rules

This blog was written by Fiona Ong at Shawe Rosenthal, author of our Maryland Human Resources Manual. You can find the original blog post here and their Labor & Employment Report newsletter (which is excellent) here.   NLRB Issues New (And More Balanced) Guidance on Handbook Rules ... ..read more

Guidelines for a valid no-solicitation/no-distribution policy

Guidelines for a Valid No-Solicitation/No-Distribution Policy This blog was written by Fiona Ong at Shawe Rosenthal, author of our Maryland Human Resources Manual. You can find the original blog post here and their Labor & Employment Report newsletter (which is excellent) here.   Man... ..read more

Conducting internal I-9 audits

This blog is an excerpt from our book Employment Verification – An Employer’s Guide to Immigration, Form I-9 and E-Verify by David Selden and Julie Pace at The Cavanagh Law Firm. For more information, go to the Products tab above and click on "Federal" to subscribe.   For many years, an emp... ..read more

Attendance policies

Needless to say, a company can’t operate (let alone succeed) if the employees aren’t showing up to work. But how do you ensure that your workforce will consistently report for duty? One good step is having a clear attendance policy. Communicating clearly about what are acceptable reasons to miss ... ..read more

Nepotism: favoring relatives and friends in the workplace

It is not unusual for multiple members of a family to work for the same employer.  However, such situations can be troublesome if the family members are in a superior-subordinate relationship because: the relationship may give rise to favoritism or to suspicions of it the subordinate fami... ..read more

The Form I-9 has changed… Again!

Immigration enforcement is a major priority for the Trump Administration. Work site enforcement and I-9 audits and inquiries by ICE have been increasing and they will continue to increase. In addition to this, yet another new I-9 form was issued in 2017. All employers must use the new Form I-9 du... ..read more

Arizona sick day policy

Arizona sick day policy Julie A. Pace, The Cavanagh Law Firm This blog comes directly from the Arizona Human Resources Manual. If you are an hrsimple.com member, just log in and go to Chapter 21, Personnel manuals and policies. Beginning on July 1, 2017, under Arizona law, all employees ... ..read more

Vacation policies and time off

Not all employers provide employees with vacation time, but for those who do it is wise to have a clear, well-enforced policy in place to prevent confusion and help employees understand what steps need to be followed in order to use their time off. If employers decide to provide time off they nee... ..read more

Employee handbooks – getting a handle on your policies

While there may be no state or federal law requiring an employer to have a handbook, there are a number or reasons why they are in an employer’s best interest.  Usefulness. It is beneficial for there to be one definitive source on the terms of employment. If an employee ever has a question ... ..read more
HR Webinars
Unconscious bias - whether you realize it or not
December 18th, 2018 at 11:00am CST by Margaret A. Matejkovic, Esq. at Kastner Westman & Wilkins, LLC


HR Articles
Holiday party what-would-you-dos
2019 minimum wage chart
Save the Office Holiday Party
MeToo, avoiding women, and the modified Mike Pence Rule
Carnac the Magnificent says – Politicussin
Non-competes for non-skilled – non-productive, non-legal, non-enforceable?
Discrimination CHARGE! – Step 3 Cause or no cause, because you gotta do something
Discrimination CHARGE! – Step 2 Go Kim Possible for the investigation phase
Discrimination CHARGE! – Step 1 Don't panic, ask questions
Depression – what can an employer do?
Employers beware - what you say can and will be used against you
Holiday stew – ingredients for a happy and non-litigious holiday
MO - The weed du jour - marijuana médicale
Biometrics in the workplace - not a measure of bios accumulated by an employee
Thanks-giving isn't just about turkeys - include the good employees too
The best "stay" to help you retain employees
Overtime, daylight savings time and circadian rhythyms
Controlling the political speech of buttons*
Cursing, surfing, weapons, gadgets – illegal, inappropriate or OK?
How to Ghostbuster a new hire or applicant
Election leave – employer's civic duty, migraine, or just wishful thinking (election, leave!)
Costumes, booze and the Great Pumpkin – beware the office Halloween party
Disability – Dr. or employee approved?
401(k) plan + payroll provider = 401k good things
Disability/pregnancy practices – what not to practice
Bad hire! Bad, bad hire!
TN – A drug-free workplace program is good
Open enrollment – personalizing perks pays off
Unpaid intern – depends on who benefits
The #1 office perk is . . . ?
FMLA leave before being eligible for FMLA leave
IL – Required expense reimbursement for your employees, not Bill Self
Help hiring holiday help here
Are the new DOL opinion letters like noses?
Public disclosure of confidential information is easier than you think
Bad mix – accommodation request and firing
If religious accommodation and a flu shot both equal angst, is that the transitive or substitution property?
Workplace shootings – 20 can-dos to prevent them
No call/no show shows. No what about it.
List 10 Up: Top tips for starting a workplace incident interview
Mr. Freeze unveils National Security Freeze tagline: "They can't steal your identity if it's frozen"
If it's called a dress code, can I wear pants?
I've changed my name – to Optimus Prime
TN: Conceal and carry means post to prohibit or permit
I'll take "ADA in 5s?" please Alex
Swearing at work – 7 rules
Is that red light flashing?
Four-legged office mates and the pawternity policies they benefit
Notice: notices and forms for FMLA that were already expired now updated virtually unchanged
Don't feel ripped off when you get ripped off – get even
School-related parental leave does not mean you forge a note from your kid
NY: Draft model sexual harassment policy/training released
Discipline - Demote - Depart or Communicate - Counsel - Channel
ICE audits II – FAQs to make you wiser
Round up stew: sick leave, harassment, non-compete, etc.
Identifying trade secrets does not mean figuring out how to barter better
ICE audits have nothing to do with freezer police
Being at work full time is not an essential function of a job?
List 10 up: Positive employee relations training: reap the benefits of engagement
Employment agreements – what to do before you do
Background checks of the future are continuous
Treating service animal requests (always treat the animal)
Prepare for saying "No" – you need to decide how to refuse service
List 10 up: What's the deal with employee handbook rules?
I cannot tell a lie . . . you're fired for cutting down the cherry tree
Milk Stork delivers for working mom's and their baby
Job tasks and essential functions under the ADA
Who are you? Why are you here? Personality testing?
No, you can't sleep on the job
Technology driving the hiring process
Should you give your employees a little Slack – or do they have enough already?
"We need to talk" isn't any easier to say than to hear
Bet employers must make: call and raise your minimum wage
Zero tolerance for "zero tolerance" policies
Ralph Waldo Emerson as a productivity consultant
PS: PTSD IRL*
Is the employee "disabled" under the ADA?
The six step DOL audit polka
PTO on the house!
New rules for work rules
Dr. Strangelabor or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Millennial
Did Bartleby the scrivener write his own job description?
"Treating" disgruntled or bad behaving employees
Hiring under the age of 18
DO NOT LICK THE BRAIN! and other obvious stuff
Helping your employees save for emergencies
Right to bare arms in the workplace
#MeToo quiz
Under standing desks
How to approach an employee showing signs of cognitive decline
Dress codes should not be encoded
Foul language *
Rorschach, Horshack and Abednego
Don't ask a woman the gender of her child, especially. . .
Guidelines for a valid no-solicitation/no-distribution policy
All aboard the Love Train for long-term onboarding!
Gender and workplace bathrooms
No FMLA for pet's death
Personal hygiene in the workplace
Yes Virginia, there is a St. Patrick's Day in Ireland
Master the modern method for managing March Madness
Drug testing in The Office
Background checks
"Thank you" and "I'm sorry" – meaningful, simple and impactful
Michael Corleone HR tip for the day
S'not flu or it is, doesn't matter
Be prepared for ICE raids
Looking for employees: an untapped source of talent
Calling Dr. Love(less)
Non-exempt employees – what counts as wages?
HR is not a happy accident
Do new hires have to be a culture club fit?
Remote workers and telecommuting
When former employees ask for references
Model written lock out/tag out program
Wrong table cat
They might be giants . . . transforming healthcare?
Conducting internal I-9 audits
The Nebraska Chamber has issued a W-2 challenge to state taxpayers
The impact of super bowl(ing)
12 steps to handling violence in the workplace
Workplace retaliation: don't give in to the Dark Side
Would you really want to work with a bunch of yous?
What is the ADA?
Monty Python should not write your job descriptions
FMLA definitions
Unemployed or wear a bra – are those the only choices?
What "government shutdown" means for employers
An intern by any other name
FMLA - "leave" as in "leave the employee alone"
 “M,” “F,” Or “X”? Nonbinary Gender Designations in the Workplace
Sexual harassment – can't find it – what now?
Probationary periods
Employee contracts
Introverts
How to treat fringe benefits for employees
Attendance policies
Different repeal
Temporary and leased employees
Birthdays in the workplace
Needy employees
Holiday parties - acknowledge, avoid, assume (nothing)
Dress codes: who, what, wear
Punch clock
Nepotism: favoring relatives and friends in the workplace
Year-end performance reviews
Hiring interviews
The Form I-9 has changed… Again!
Service dogs at work
Bring your own gun
Social media
Year-end or holiday incentives
Arizona sick day policy
Paternity leave
HRsimple spotlight - Fiona Ong
Permissible post-accident drug testing
Paid family leave: a growing trend
Politics in the workplace: how to remain legally compliant during election season
Termination Series: Communicating the reason for discharge
It’s only a matter of overtime
Interview with attorneys at Kastner Westman & Wilkins
Valentine's Day heartaches around the office
Safety and health tips
Wearable technology
Favorite HR sites
Back to school time is here!
Vacation policies and time off
Interview with author J. Hagood Tighe
Non-compete agreements
Workplace romance
Holidays
Bullying in the workplace
Employment references
Telecommuting or remote (control) workers
Social media and employment
Performance evaluations
Breaktimes
Interview with attorneys at Wilson Worley PC
Interview with attorneys at Knudsen Law Firm
Interview with Kathy Speaker MacNett
Firing, a job to do right the first time
Job advertisement do’s and don’ts
Employee handbooks – getting a handle on your policies
Technology in the workplace
Interview questions: do's and don'ts
Employee personnel files