Halloween is a time of celebration, superstition, and costumes in all its glory. It can be a fun day or a day to never forget -- ghosts and witches take the street (digitally now, too) and the office as well. While encouraging your employees to dress in costume or hosting a Halloween party can be morale-boosters, the potential to backfire on the company exists. In fact, every year businesses face Employment Practices Liability Insurance claims from employees due to Halloween-related events at work. Don't let this become a scary day for your business.
Before going too deep into the technical terms and how to protect your business, you first should understand risks that your business could face as you head into your Halloween work festivities. Here are several potential risks to keep in mind:
There is always an employee that you are the most afraid about, no pun intended. You know who I'm talking about though -- the one that does not mind pushing the boundaries when it comes to a "workplace appropriate attire". Whether your workplace allows and/or encourages costumes at work for this special day, set a Halloween dress code. Costumes that replicate stereotypical images of people who are members of a protected class (e.g., handicap, elderly) could violate an individual's rights to their own political views and cause discrimination by making offensive remarks.
Everyone has experienced the office clown who enjoys the holiday a bit too much and lives out their character to the detriment of everyone around them, overstepping reasonable limits and veering towards harassment. It's a good idea to remind employees about your harassment policy prior to Halloween to avoid these issues and any explicit content.
Alcohol consumption (yep...)
Any office celebration can potentially have alcohol consumption involved, which can be a significant safety and liability concern. It is challenging to prevent people from drinking alcohol at a celebration, but there are ways to protect your business against alcohol-related claims.
In some cultures and religions celebrating Halloween is considered a form of worship, so there will be employees that choose to not participate, they may even request a day off as "religious accommodation". You as a business owner or manager, need to be prepared for this and respect their beliefs.
Although, it's hard to believe that this could be an issue at an office Halloween party; employers must set limits on costume decor and accessories, prohibiting all toy or real weapons as costume props.
Do not pressure employees to participate under any circumstance. If an employee informs you that he or she will not be participating in the Halloween celebration, that decision needs to be respected.
Take proactive measures to protect your business
We talked about the preventive measures, but it's impossible to foresee or even control all of these risky variables, this applies even beyond the Halloween season. To protect your small and medium businesses, there are companies out there that will easily provide you with the right policy, in no time. One of them, leading the insur-tech revolution, is CoverWallet. The company utilizes state of the art technology to help small businesses understand their unique insurance needs by providing customized coverage, significant savings and conveniently managing their insurance, in a matter of minutes, all through their online platform.
Risks that were mentioned above, that might be beneficial to you and your business, can be addressed with the following policies, Workers Compensation, Liquor Liability, and EPLI (Employment Practices Liability Insurance).
A relatively unknown policy, but a crucial one, is EPLI. This is a type of liability insurance that covers claims made by employees. For example, if any employee harasses or discriminates against another employee (or is even alleged to have done so), EPLI will provide a defense and possibly claim payment on behalf of the business. Any business owner knows that is a critical coverage to protect the business owner from meritless claims brought by disgruntled employees.
Sure, at the end of the day, business owners aim to be just and non-discriminatory, but age and gender gaps can lead to miscommunication, and EPLI coverage could serve as a last line of defense against employment claims.
Have a happy and safe Halloween!