You have a tendency to make employment lawyers busy.
For instance, there was that time when an employee made comments about a co-worker “taking a girlfriend dressed as a 747 to a Halloween party and bringing her in for a landing” when the co-worker was gay and had no girlfriend. Harassment? (Hansen v. Skywest Airlines)
Or the time when a female employee was dressed as a Barbie doll for Halloween that a male co-worker asked her if she was going to be a trick or a treat. Harassment? (Williams v. Innovate Loan Servicing Corp.)
Then there’s the story of a complaint regarding a gay employee and a co-worker who were seen “jumping naked together” in a trampoline in that employee’s yard after the co-worker brought his children over to trick-or-treat on Halloween night. Hostile work environment? (Mowery v. Escambia County Utilities Authority)
I could go on. (And I have in a post in past years here.)
This year may prove to be a bit different. With many offices still having work-from-home rules, the opportunities for employee interaction are certainly less than in past years. (Though don’t get me started on Zoom, see Toobin, Jeffrey.)
But is a hard reality that sexual harassment remains pervasive in the workplace — even when it’s virtual. Texting is being used more (I see you Eggplant and Peach Emojis) and increasing amounts of video conferences are being done from bedrooms that double as offices. (I see you casual wear)
Employers should keep their radar up this year with Halloween and the rest of the holidays approaching. As I noted yesterday, COVID fatigue is real and I sense that employees are just tired of being physically cooped up. Poor judgment is bound to creep in.
Remind employees of the expectations — even when working from home — and ensure that your workplace (wherever it is now) is safe and welcoming to all.
And still, Happy Halloween to all.