Mount Airy businesses discuss workplace Halloween costume policy trends


By Terri Flagg - tflagg@civitasmedia.com



Shawn Watson, left, and Ashly Lancaster, employees of Northern Hospital of Surry County, pose in their Halloween costumes at work.


Submitted photo

Dressing up for Halloween is one childhood tradition that doesn’t have to get left behind in adulthood.

But some experts urge caution regarding costumes in the workplace.

“Employers know that if they don’t have a zero-tolerance policy on offensive costumes they’ll face something really frightening — a lawsuit for creating a hostile work environment,” said Daren Martin, workplace culture expert.

“If you come to work dressed like a naughty nurse you’re inviting sexual harassment.”

The Washington Post recently reported that offensive costumes are on the rise.

Many online stores list offensive costumes as a separate category.

At the top of the list of popular controversial costumes this year are those spinning off transgender reality TV star Caitlin Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover photo outfit and spoofs of “Cecil the Lion.”

Amazon recently removed the “Adult Lady Boy Drag Fancy Dress Costume Outfit,” from its Amazon U.K. site after reviewers complained that the costume ridiculed the transgender community, according to a Huffington Post article.

The costume included a black wig, sequined dress and fabric male genitalia.

Actress Ashley Benson, who stars on “Pretty Little Liars,” recently removed an photo of her in a lion costume that was interpreted as Cecil the Lion from Instagram and issued an apology.

Several local employers said their staffers aren’t quite that edgy.

“I do not recall having any issues with inappropriate or offensive costumes in recent years,” said Ashly Lancaster, spokesperson for Northern Hospital of Surry County, where staff are allowed to dress in costume with approval from their supervisors.

“We have asked that costumes be ‘patient friendly,’ do not interfere with your patient care tasks or other job duties, and your face may not be covered with a mask,” she said.

Gary Largen, store manager of Lowe’s Foods in Mount Airy, said employees won’t be dressing up this year because the store will be transitioning to a new style of uniform during the holiday, but many had in the past.

“They seemed to enjoy it,” he said, noting that his store’s costume policies were “very conservative.”

Largen said costumes had to be tasteful, employees had to wear long pants and weren’t allowed to wear masks, “nothing that would scare the kids. We knew we were working with the public.”

Ellie Webb, co-owner of Old Northstate Winery, which hosts the Boo Bash Halloween Party benefit for the Mount Airy Museum Regional History, said employees usually dress up for the holiday, typically in traditional costumes.

“There’s no issues that pop up,” she said. “There’s no office politics here. It’s just for fun.”

Shawn Watson, left, and Ashly Lancaster, employees of Northern Hospital of Surry County, pose in their Halloween costumes at work.
http://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/web1_151026_WorkplaceHalloween.jpgShawn Watson, left, and Ashly Lancaster, employees of Northern Hospital of Surry County, pose in their Halloween costumes at work. Submitted photo

By Terri Flagg

tflagg@civitasmedia.com

Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.

Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.

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