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How to Avoid Turning Your Costume Party Into an HR Nightmare

Here are my top 5 tips to avoid turning your innocent costume party into an HR horror show.

October 31, 2013
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Related Topics: Miscellaneous Legal Issues, Harassment, Dress & Appearance, Discrimination and EEOC Compliance, Policies and Procedures, Workplace Culture
KEYWORDS costumes / halloween
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Today is Halloween. Truth be told, Halloween is one of my least favorite holidays. It always has been and always will be. I never liked it, even as a kid. Sure, all the candy was fun, but I just never got into the whole dress-up thing. As an adult, I like it even less. Not to be a Halloween scrooge, but I can’t even get into the holiday for my kids (this year, going as Mike Wazowski and a rock star), although I trudge though it for them.

A lot of people are into Halloween, and some are really into Halloween. It’s the holiday on which we spend more than any holiday other than Christmas. And, a lot of your workplaces will be having Halloween parties. Some of the parties will request that you dress up for the occasion. If you happen to work in one of the workplaces, you have my sympathies. You also have my top 5 tips to avoid turning your innocent costume party into an HR horror show.

  1. Be appropriate. Racist costumes have no roll anywhere, especially in the workplace.

  2. Be appropriate (number 2). If the name of your costume starts with “Slutty” or “Naughty” or some other similar adjective, pick another costume. Costumes like “Carlos Danger” (aka sexting Anthony Weiner), or anything else overtly sexual, are also really bad ideas.

  3. Can you work in your costume? It may be really cute or clever dressing up as an iPhone, but if it hinders your ability to do even the simplest of tasks (like sitting at your desk), then it’s probably not the right costume for work. Make-up and masks, while impressive and scary, are probably best left at home.

  4. Avoid dangerous costumes. No, I’m not talking about Leatherface with a real chainsaw (although that’s also a bad idea). I’m talking about long wigs, feather boas, or other materials that could get caught in dangerous equipment, for example.

  5. Are you thinking about dressing up like a coworker or your boss? Does that individual have a good sense of humor? Are they going to take it the right way? You better be 100 percent sure before you don that mimicry.

Written by Jon Hyman, a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. For more information, contact Hyman at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com. You can also follow Hyman on Twitter at @jonhyman.

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