Career Advice >> Browse Articles >> Job Profiles


Workplace Halloween Costumes to Avoid

Workplace Halloween Costumes to Avoid

Eve Tahmincioglu |

October 26, 2012

Dressing like a terrorist this Halloween season is probably not going to get you a promotion.

In fact, costumes that are in poor taste might even get you in career hot water if you wear one to an office party or Halloween bash where you might see some of your not-so-close coworkers or managers. And your actions could even get others in trouble.

In 2008, a manager at the Massachusetts transit authority was fired because he didn’t reprimand an employee who came to work with a noose around his neck as part of a Halloween costume. The outfit, supervisors contended, “could be perceived as racially insensitive.”

Shanti Atkins, president and CEO of ELT, an ethics and workplace compliance training firm, has seen some major Halloween costume faux pas in her work and she’s here to warn everyone that costumes you think are funny, sexy, or scary could come back to haunt you, literally.

“There are different levels of conservatism in every workplace,” she explained, when it comes to how far you can push the envelope. But in most offices and factories you don’t want to wear a costume that offends a certain ethic group or goes crazy on the sex-pot-o-meter.

It potentially can create a hostile work environment and even lead to lawsuits, she added, and no employer wants that.

In one case, Atkins worked with a company where a female manager filed sexual harassment charges against a male manager. In the midst of the investigation into the allegations, the complaining manager wore a over-the-top sexy cocktail waitress costume to an office Halloween parade and the male manager complained to his superiors that her choice of outfit proved her claims were BS.

“That was a sticky situation because her wearing that was not an invitation for harassment but it created a ripped effect,” she said. “They basically had to make it clear to him that the two things were separate, but they also talked to the woman, telling her that ‘it was not appropriate for you to show up at work dressed like this.’”

Figuring out what’s appropriate or not is the challenge. Atkins actually scoured the costume offerings out there this year and provided me with a list of what she deemed to be the most inappropriate workplace Halloween costumes of the season:

Next Page: Inappropriate Costumes →