Blackface is a bad idea for Halloween at work, and other ways that you can avoid calling me on November 1.

Before I get to the Halloween, I’m assuming that if you won last night’s Mega Millions jackpot, you probably have better things to do than read this blog post. If however, you did win, congratulations! And, by reading this far into the blog post, you agree to split your winnings 50/50 with me.

Ok, 60/40.

It’s a contract. That’s how the law works. Checkmate!

Blackface, it’s totally racist.

I hate to call people out on this blog. So, let’s just say that there’s a certain person named “Megyn K.”…

No, that’s too obvious; I’ll start over

There’s a woman named “M. Kelly” who hosts a television show on NBC called Megyn Kelly Today.

Dammit, I gave it away, didn’t I?

Anyway, The Hollywood Reporter‘s Lauren Huff and Jeremy Barr reported here yesterday that a certain celebrity who may or may not be Megyn Kelly didn’t understand that most reasonable people find it totally racist to don blackface:

Megyn Kelly, no stranger to controversy during her year as host of NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today, is in hot water on Tuesday after she seemed to defend the wearing of blackface costumes, arguing that it used to be acceptable.

“But, what is racist?” she asked her panelists. “Because truly, you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface at Halloween or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid, that was okay as long as you were dressing up as like a character.”

Yeah, it’s totally racist.

This became clear to Ms. Kelly later in the day, and she apologized, according to Ms. Huff reporting here.

In Ms. Kelly’s defense — not one I’d ever use in front of a jury — other celebrities have screwed up royally by either wearing blackface or associating themselves with a blackface photo/skit, Paula Deen, among others. Again, it’s not funny, and it’s totally racist.

Remember, that Halloween isn’t a ‘get out of jail free card’ to offend co-workers based on [insert protected class]. Plus, even if you don’t perceive your costume to be racist, your intent is immaterial. If it offends a co-worker and would otherwise offend a reasonable person in your co-worker’s shoes, the law considers your costume racist.

So, while we’re at it, let’s stay away from any costumes that involve cultural appropriation, politics, sexual harassment, 9/11, Anne Frank, Skeleboner, transphobia, and anything with the word “naughty” or “sexy” in the title.

Lawyers, it’s not ok to come dressed as “the bar.” This, however, would earn my knowing nod, amidst a sea of “what is that heck is she” looks.

Although not original at this point — like last year’s Negan — Gritty is pretty good too.

Here are some additional HR-compliance tips to keep Halloween fun and less lawsuit-y at work:

  • Halloween is a Scary Time for Employers from BeLabor The Point
  • Afraid of Sexual Harassment Claims? Then Be Afraid of Halloween from Dan Schwartz at the Connecticut Employment Law Blog
  • Hosting an Office Halloween Party: Dos and Don’ts from the Evil HR Lady
  • How To Avoid Halloween Horrors At Work from SHRM
  • Can the ‘Naughty Nurse’ and Modern Workplace Coexist? also from SHRM
  • Halloween can be more trick than treat for employers from bizjournals.com
  • What HR really thinks about your Office Halloween Costume from Recruitingblogs.com

 

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”