With Halloween coming up on Wednesday, we would like to remind everyone that nothing ruins a good costume like someone using it as an “excuse” to bother, harass, or humiliate others on Halloween.
A costume, like any other article of clothing, is not an invitation to be harassed – even when that costume represents something you find “unacceptable” on the other 364 days of the year. It’s not an invitation to say or do something to a person what one would not otherwise do. Too often, fear of unwanted or aggressive behavior from others holds people back from enjoying themselves, especially once they know how awful being harassed can make you feel.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is seeing a moderate increase in sexual harassment complaints, less than one year after the birth of the #MeToo movement. The good news is that, in general, the number of total discrimination and harassment claims has dropped.
The, Legal, History Of Halloween
You may not have known that Halloween has a unique place in U.S. employment law history. Below are a few cases.
- In Grubka v. Department of Treasury, 858 F.2d 1570 (Fed. Cir. 1988), a supervisor appealed his demotion for engaging in alleged acts of misconduct. The supervisor was alleged to have kissed and embraced two female employees at a Halloween party after hours, away from their workplace. While he prevailed, this shows that Halloween is not an excuse for harassment.
- In Richardson v. New York State Dept. of Corr. Ser., 180 F. 3d 426(2d Cir. 1999), an employee claimed that a co-worker made an inappropriate comment, something to the effect of “all you spooks have a nice Halloween.” According to the court, the Plaintiff “perceived that the word “spooks” was used as a derogatory term for African Americans.” Before you think this was simply an innocent accident, click the link above to read more.
- In Caouette v. OfficeMax, Inc., 352 F. Supp. 2d 134 (D. N.H. 2005), a female cashier alleged that her supervisor had a frank discussion of what he was going to wear for Halloween. We’ll let you read further on your own and suggest starting at page 139.
As these cases show, Halloween is no excuse for harassment.
From our family to yours, Happy Halloween!
Have fun and be safe.
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