A Lawyer’s Guide to Halloween

An article in the National Law Journal (subscription required, regrettably) offers advice from employment lawyers regarding appropriate Halloween costumes for office parties.

The well-intentioned NLJ subscriber might believe that “naughty nurse” or “illegal alien” constitutes acceptable workplace attire, but this is not so, says the journal. Employers must offer clear rules and be unafraid to punish those who violate them.

The article begins by advising against racist costumes. Employees “should be careful” in dressing up as Barack Obama or Sonia Sotomayor, cautioned Steve Miller of Fisher Phillips. And topical humor requires a delicate touch:

[Former employment lawyer Shanti] Atkins predicted many men will dress as David Letterman, talk jokingly about workplace sex and even pretend to hit on female co-workers — a potential sexual harassment concern, she warned.

Atkins also noted that acceptable costumes from years past might not work this year. For example, a suggestion four years ago to wear a “pink slip” over clothing and chase co-workers around might not be funny given the current unemployment rate.

Presumably, employees may heed their own conscience in celebrating the holiday outside the office. A Lawyer’s Guide to Halloween