Be Careful What You Wear to the Office on Halloween

Scary Halloween dolls-freeAs an office event opportunity, Halloween is just a so-so holiday. Only about half the nation’s workplaces will do something special Thursday, with a costume contest the most popular company-sponsored event.

Glassdoor says half your co-workers will come watch the judging and enjoy the candy corn that turns up in every trick or treat bag. Few though — just about 11 percent, the Glassdoor survey finds — will actually wear a costume to the office on Halloween. The biggest share (42 percent) will come as a ghost, witch, pirate, or other classic Halloween character.

To get more employees to participate, convince those at the top to come costumed, says Glassdoor’s Human Resources and Talent Acquisition Expert Amanda Lachapelle. One-in-three employees said they hope the boss will dress up for Halloween.

“Give employees a heads up that your CEO or other executive will be coming in costume to work, and you may be surprised to see just how many people will show up in a range of creative costumes,” Lachapelle says.

Creativity is good, just don’t go over the top.

“An office Halloween party creates plenty of opportunity for adults to cross the costume line, and employers should be concerned about the bawdy nature of some costumes,” advises the California Chamber of Commerce.

“Some of them can be quite outrageous and revealing and inappropriate,” warned Susan Kemp, manager of CalChamber’s Labor Law Helpline.

When a costume is inappropriate, 51 percent of workers say HR should ask the person to change clothes; 14 percent say the person should be sent home.

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Labor lawyers recommend reminding workers now, while there is still time for them to change their costume plans, that Halloween isn’t an “anything goes” event at the office. HR or office managers should also be more explicit than simply saying costumes must be in “good taste” or “office appropriate.”

Instead, advises Steve Miller, a labor and employment attorney with Fisher & Phillips, give examples. Scanty outfits like sexy nurse or a pole dancer are out (and should be obvious, yet aren’t), as are costumes that mock ethnic or religious groups or sexual orientation.

“Strippers, pimps, whores, terrorists, Osama bin Laden — these can positively cause a stir in the workplace,” Miller told the Society for Human Resource Management.

There are also costumes that aren’t overtly offensive, but could be in the wrong setting. Notes SHRM, “images of ghosts, graves, skeletons, and blood don’t go over well in healthcare settings.”

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick /

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.


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