The “Halloween in the Workplace” HR-compliance post for 2020 feels a little different this year


Alexas Fotos, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ordinarily, this is that time of year when I recycle an old Halloween post and ensure that the best blog readers in the world are prepared for the employees that exercise poor judgment when reporting to work on Halloween.

Instead, I’m building a slingshot to launch Halloween candy at socially-distanced children. (And drafting a liability waiver for youngsters who have trouble shaking off a Milky Way to the eyes).

Yes, things are different this year, especially for HR folks.

First of all, Halloween falls on a Saturday. So, there’s that. But then there’s that COVID-19 thing. So, there aren’t that many people in the workplace this year either.

Will this stop me from repurposing highlighting some best practices accumulated from prior years? Heck no!

  • 6 tips to avoid turning your costume party into an HR nightmare from Jon Hyman at the Ohio Employer Law Blog
  • Don’t let Halloween haunt your workplace: How to manage the holiday’s risks from HR Dive
  • Afraid of Sexual Harassment Claims? Then Be Afraid of Halloween from Dan Schwartz at the Connecticut Employment Law Blog
  • How To Avoid Halloween Horrors At Work from SHRM
  • Workplace Halloween Celebrations Can Lead to Scary Situations also from SHRM
  • Halloween can be more trick than treat for employers from
  • What HR really thinks about your Office Halloween Costume from

What I will do this year, however, is update my list of unacceptable workplace Halloween costumes. Let’s start with the obvious:

  • Those COVID-19 spore-looking virus things that freak us all out
  • Anything with blackface or brownface
  • Anything that has ‘naughty’ or ‘sexy’ on the costume packaging
  • Any living political figure (or, really, most anything to do with politics, like this or this)
  • Adolf Hitler
  • Anne Frank
  • Anything transphobic
  • A terrorist, or frankly, anything with a gun
  • Anything phallic

But there are other costumes that don’t belong at work, like those involving cultural appropriation/stereotypes or fat/body shaming. And anything without a face mask is off-limits too. So, basically, stick with a professional doctor or nurse; just not a proctologist, gynecologist, or urologist. And not this either.

Yep, it’s a strange year for sure.

Did I miss anything particularly cringy from this list? Email me and let me know.

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