The National Law Journal has a fun article today about costumes in the workplace with an ominous warning about "naughty nurses" in the workplace:
[L]abor and employment attorneys are warning employers that the annual holiday could get scary — in a legal way — if costumes, or a work party, get out of hand.
Specifically, costumes that carry a political or social message, or are simply too raunchy for the workplace, could lead to a liability nightmare down the road.
A naughty nurse can get you into trouble," warned attorney Steve Miller of the Chicago office of Atlanta’s Fisher & Phillips, noting that certain costumes can set the stage for future harassment.
The article highlights all the liability risks involved and even suggests that personal injury lawsuits could arise.
Frankly, the article paints a little too dark a picture and paints employment lawyers as a modern day grinch when it comes to the workplace.
In these tough economic times, there’s a place for keeping morale and spirits up among employees and if allowing them to wear costumes today brings a few smiles, then go for it. Laws are not designed to take the fun and joy of the workplace so there’s no need to go overboard on being the "costume police".
Of course, if the costumes cross the line on good taste or judgment (and a "naughty nurse" would certainly be one of them), then it’s certainly appropriate to tell the employee to take it off and save it for trick-or-treating tonight. But otherwise, view the costumes much like you would a dress-code policy.
Have a very happy and safe Halloween.
(For a lighter take on one court’s opinion of Halloween, check out A Connecticut Law Blog’s post here.)