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Why Office Halloween Parties Frighten Attorneys

Author: Scarinci Hollenbeck|October 27, 2016

The Legal Risks Businesses Should Consider Before Hosting Office Halloween Parties

Why Office Halloween Parties Frighten Attorneys

The Legal Risks Businesses Should Consider Before Hosting Office Halloween Parties

office halloween parties

Halloween isn’t just for children. In fact, Americans ranked Halloween as their third-favorite holiday, right behind Christmas and Thanksgiving.But should ghosts and goblins be allowed in the office? Studies confirm that workplace social functions boost morale and teamwork. Unfortunately, they can also provide a breeding ground for liability.

Legal Issues to Consider

For businesses considering a Halloween office party, there are some issues to be “spooked” about. However, establishing clear guidelines and encouraging employees to use common sense can go a long way to managing legal risks. Below are a few tips:

  • Inappropriate costumes It is important to specify if and when employees are allowed to wear costumes. For instance, companies may want to restrict the wearing of costumes to after work hours. For those that allow workers to dress up in the office, encourage employees to wear work-appropriate costumes and provide a non-exhaustive list of what may be considered unacceptable, such as costumes that are overly revealing or sexually suggestive and costumes that feature realistic weapons.
  • Don’t require attendance: Social events can help boost employee morale and camaraderie. However, Halloween parties are not everyone’s idea of a good time and could even make workers uncomfortable. Therefore, it’s a good idea not to make attendance mandatory.
  • Alcohol impairment: Companies who serve alcohol at social functions can be held liable if a guest is injured or hurts someone else due to alcohol impairment. So if you are hosting a Halloween party, you may want to consider holding the event during the day and avoiding alcohol. If it is served, limiting employees to certain number of drink tickets, serving ample amounts of food, and providing a safe way home can mitigate the risk of an alcohol-related incident.
  • Sexual harassment: The ability to hide behind costumes can encourage employees to engage in bad behavior that could be construed as sexual harassment. Staff should be reminded that they will be held to the same standards of professionalism that apply when wearing normal attire, i.e. pretending to bite someone’s neck is not appropriate.
  • Insurance coverage: If you are hosting your Halloween party in-house, talk to your insurance carrier about the availability of dram shop insurance or liquor law liability insurance to cover the event. When using an outside facility or caterer, it is important to verify that they have the appropriate insurance to cover any potential liability exposure for your business.

Do you have any questions? Would you like to discuss the matter further? If so, please contact me, Sean Dias, at 201-806-3364.

Why Office Halloween Parties Frighten Attorneys

Author: Scarinci Hollenbeck
office halloween parties

Halloween isn’t just for children. In fact, Americans ranked Halloween as their third-favorite holiday, right behind Christmas and Thanksgiving.But should ghosts and goblins be allowed in the office? Studies confirm that workplace social functions boost morale and teamwork. Unfortunately, they can also provide a breeding ground for liability.

Legal Issues to Consider

For businesses considering a Halloween office party, there are some issues to be “spooked” about. However, establishing clear guidelines and encouraging employees to use common sense can go a long way to managing legal risks. Below are a few tips:

  • Inappropriate costumes It is important to specify if and when employees are allowed to wear costumes. For instance, companies may want to restrict the wearing of costumes to after work hours. For those that allow workers to dress up in the office, encourage employees to wear work-appropriate costumes and provide a non-exhaustive list of what may be considered unacceptable, such as costumes that are overly revealing or sexually suggestive and costumes that feature realistic weapons.
  • Don’t require attendance: Social events can help boost employee morale and camaraderie. However, Halloween parties are not everyone’s idea of a good time and could even make workers uncomfortable. Therefore, it’s a good idea not to make attendance mandatory.
  • Alcohol impairment: Companies who serve alcohol at social functions can be held liable if a guest is injured or hurts someone else due to alcohol impairment. So if you are hosting a Halloween party, you may want to consider holding the event during the day and avoiding alcohol. If it is served, limiting employees to certain number of drink tickets, serving ample amounts of food, and providing a safe way home can mitigate the risk of an alcohol-related incident.
  • Sexual harassment: The ability to hide behind costumes can encourage employees to engage in bad behavior that could be construed as sexual harassment. Staff should be reminded that they will be held to the same standards of professionalism that apply when wearing normal attire, i.e. pretending to bite someone’s neck is not appropriate.
  • Insurance coverage: If you are hosting your Halloween party in-house, talk to your insurance carrier about the availability of dram shop insurance or liquor law liability insurance to cover the event. When using an outside facility or caterer, it is important to verify that they have the appropriate insurance to cover any potential liability exposure for your business.

Do you have any questions? Would you like to discuss the matter further? If so, please contact me, Sean Dias, at 201-806-3364.

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