Protect Your Company From Halloween Hijinks

imagesIt’s always nice to lighten up the workplace by throwing an employee party, and many employers view Halloween as the perfect occasion to loosen the dress code and let employees act out their fantasies by coming to the office in costume.   All too often however, some employees allow the situation to get the better of them and basically screw things up.  Consider just a few examples of halloween hijinks that landed employers in court:

In 2009, a female employee in New York attended a company Halloween party dressed as a punk schoolgirl with black fishnet stockings.  While  walking down the hallway, a supervisor approached her and requested that she come into his office, and then asked  if her stockings were waist-high or thigh-high and also wanted to see how far they went up her leg.

In a 2006 Louisiana case,  a postal employee sued for harassment after attending a halloween event dressed as a cat, which prompted her manager to make statements to the effect that he wanted “that pussy.”

Back in 1995, a white police officer in Arkansas attended a halloween party dressed in overalls and a curly black wig.  He was also in blackface and carrying a watermelon.

Of course, these geniuses would have inevitably gotten their employers in trouble  with or without Halloween, but the lesson here is simple.  If you’re going to let employees dress up for Halloween, take steps before the party to diminish the risk of liability by prohibiting alcohol and provocative costumes.  If the party takes place at the workplace, have it end at a reasonable hour, and always remind employees about the company’s harassment and discrimination policies.

 

Seth Heyman
Seth D. Heyman is a California attorney with extensive experience in advertising and marketing law, corporate law, contracts, governmental regulations, international business, and Internet law. He has counseled numerous successful companies, both public and private, and was responsible for regulatory compliance, contract management, corporate governance, and HR best practices for multiple organizations in many diverse industries, including marketing, telecommunications, energy, and technology development. He offers insight and guidance on federal and state direct mail, TV, radio, telemarketing, and Internet marketing laws, as well as online promotions, Internet privacy, data protection regulations, and similar matters.