If you’re planning on having some Halloween fun at work or school, here are a few tips to help you keep your job or place in school while doing so. 

It seems every year there is a headline-grabbing story regarding Halloween, and not just about record amounts of Jolly Ranchers being collected. Last year’s winner comes from Florida, where the director of procurement for a school board thought it would be a good idea to wear a costume consisting of, “only a black coat and hat, with a tight fabric underneath which replicated a naked female body.” She visited a school and an administrative office showing off her costume, risking her $154,000 annual salary and assuring public ridicule.

Shocking costumes can lead to a number of other unfortunate outcomes, for both workers and their employers. 

  • Costumes depicting pimps, shirtless construction workers, strippers, etc., can all lead to sexual harassment claims. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome conduct on the job that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment
  • Divisive political figure costumes can lead to heated discussions and possible assaults, which can range from threats, to physical striking, and even assault with a weapon or object.
  • Neo-Nazi, hate group, and militia-themed costumes gain negative media attention every year, but they persist. Symbols such as these can lead to intimidation, claims of race, national origin, religion, and sex discrimination, and other related claims
  • Black-, brown-, yellow-face costumes are obviously “out,” however the urge to wear them seems too strong for some. Race discrimination and harassment claims are often the result of these insensitive and persistent depictions.
  • Confederate general and  “illegal alien” costumes have been pulled from store shelves, perhaps saving some employers from race discrimination or harassment claims. 

And then there are those who prefer not to celebrate at all, often based on religious beliefs. If you incline this way, mandatory and over-the-top Halloween activities at work may well constitute religious discrimination.

Of course, avoiding the party, much less complaining about offensive costumes or conduct, is not so easy. Workers who stand up for their beliefs can be branded as far worse than party poopers or wet blankets, and suffer for it. 

Retaliation is the most common complaint received by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, constituting 53% of all charges filed. Retaliation is imposed on targeted workers in a seemingly infinite array of methods, including via unfair treatment regarding:

  • job assignments
  • shift assignments
  • promotions
  • compensation
  • benefits
  • job training
  • layoffs or termination 
  • inclusion in meetings or lunches
  • offering networking opportunities

If you have experienced discrimination or retaliation as a result of a failed Halloween or other party at your place of employment you should seek advice from experienced employment attorneys. The attorneys at Pelton Graham are experienced at advocating for clients who have experienced discrimination and retaliation, and are happy to talk with you about your experience. Consultations are free, and as contingency fee attorneys, we do not get paid unless we recover for you.