Employment Law Legal Topics

Halloween Harassment

As reported in Corporate Counsel, office Halloween parties can be a nightmare for in-house and other employment lawyers. Costume choices can raise various discrimination and harassment issues  — consider the “illegal alien” costume or the sexy maid get-up.  To keep Halloween fun for all, employers should be proactive, and then reactive when necessary.

As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out,

Any celebration in the workplace can lead to a litany of employment law litigation issues from harassment to discrimination to hostile work environment. Add costumes to the mix and employers have a potential caldron of liability on their hands.

To take the “fear out of the festivities,” employers should consider the following steps:

  • Before Halloween, remind employees to use good judgment when selecting costumes. Reminders can be by email, in meetings, newsletters etc.
  • Reiterate existing harassment policies. Every employer should have anti-harassment policies and a clear complaint procedure for instances of harassment.
  • Consider crafting a policy specifically about Halloween behavior and dress.
  • Enforce harassment and discrimination policies if necessary. Employers should always address harassment complaints promptly.

For information on crafting anti-harassment policies, including sample policy forms, and on handling claims of harassment or discrimination, go to CEB’s Advising California Employers and Employees, chap 15. Also check out CEB’s Drafting Employment Documents for California Employers, chap 9, for anti-harassment and many other forms to include in an employee handbook.

© The Regents of the University of California, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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