Trick or Treat? Halloween celebrations may create employer liability

By Kelline R. Linton,


With Halloween just around the corner, employers should take note of the following potential liabilities associated with celebrations in the workplace:


Workplace Safety
The primary concern for workplace celebrations is employee safety. If an employer allows employees to celebrate Halloween at work, the employer should provide employees and supervisors with clear, written guidelines prior to the celebration. We recommend that these guidelines address (1) unsafe Halloween costumes, including the use of weapons; (2) hazardous decorations, such as unattended candles; and (3) the consumption of alcohol at any party to diminish the possibility of accidents or assaults.


Dress Code
Halloween costumes may be offensive and inappropriate for the workplace, so we also recommend that the employer provide a dress code policy that prohibits revealing, religious, ethnic, or race-based costumes to diminish the possibility of employee complaints or discrimination claims.


If the employer requires employees to wear costumes to work, the employer may need to reimburse the employees for the costumes if they constitute uniforms. While Texas does not require employers to pay for employee uniforms, other states, such as New York and California, do mandate reimbursement. We recommend that employers check their state laws before requiring employees to wear costumes.


Religious Accommodation
Lastly, if participation is mandatory, the employer should offer a religious accommodation for employees who cannot participate because of conflicting religious beliefs. While the employer is not required to cancel a Halloween celebration, the employer is required to excuse an employee from the celebration if the employee does not want to attend because of religious beliefs.


We are available if you have any questions or need advice on policies and procedures for workplace celebrations.