Dallas, TX, October 10, 2013 --(PR.com
)-- Halloween is not just for children anymore. At first glance, celebrating Halloween in the workplace might seem silly, but there can be real business benefits to its recognition: team building, stress reduction and cultivation of creativity.
However, without a plan, Halloween in the workplace can also present scary scenarios for human resource executives and in house counsel. Workplace celebrations can sometimes lead to employment issues from harassment to discrimination to hostile work environment.
“Even though Halloween celebrations can seem innocuous, there can be a real risk of problems arising out of things like what kind of costumes someone wears to work,” says Michael Abcarian, regional managing partner of the Dallas office of Fisher & Phillips, a national labor and employment law firm.
“What you wear to a bar and what you wear when out on Halloween night is not necessarily appropriate for the workplace,” Abcarian says. And there is potential for a harassment claim if workplace comments are misinterpreted.
“It may be just a costume, but if a group or even one employee is picking on another because of the costume choice, that can form the basis of a harassment claim,” Abcarian says. The situation may worsen if a manager joins in on the teasing, he adds.
Costumes that are sexually provocative, carry a political or social message, or are simply inappropriate for interacting with co-workers and customers, may lead to a liability nightmare for employers.
The proper planning of a Halloween event will lessen such risks. To that end, have some guidelines for managers and supervisors to keep in mind:
Decide if costumes are appropriate for the workplace.
Clearly communicate costume guidelines in advance.
Remind employees they are still at work, despite the holiday overtone.
Don't overreact, but be sensitive to the issues.
Think about any feedback the company received from employees or customers concerning last year's Halloween party or employee costumes.
Offer alternative celebrations.
Be prepared to discipline for misconduct, if necessary.
With these thoughts in mind, employers should be able to take the fear out of such festivities.
About Fisher & Phillips LLP (www.laborlawyers.com)
Fisher & Phillips LLP represents employers nationally in labor, employment, civil rights, employee benefits and immigration matters. The firm has more than 285 attorneys in 31 offices. Founded in 1943, it is one of the largest U.S. law firms to concentrate its practice exclusively upon representation of employers in labor and employment matters. In addition to the Dallas office, the firm has offices in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbia, Columbus, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Gulfport, Houston, Irvine, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Memphis, New England, New Jersey, New Orleans, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Tampa, and Washington, D.C.