Avoiding offensive costumes may seem like a no-brainer, but employees don’t always act reasonably

Employers should not assume that their employees will always exercise sound judgement. Prior to hosting a costume party or Halloween themed event, employers should remind employees of what costumes are appropriate. Also, inform employees that there could be consequences, including termination, for egregious and inappropriate behaviour. Two years ago, a Toronto District School Board teacher was fired for wearing blackface as part of his Halloween costume. Clearly even employees in roles of heightened trust and responsibility make bad decisions.

If an employee’s off-duty behaviour is so egregious that it could cause reputational damage to the employer, the employer has a right to discipline and even terminate the employee. While it might seem like an invasion of privacy, employees should act reasonably in their personal lives and refrain from posting their own inappropriate behaviour on social media.

Ultimately, employers should be conscious of their duty of care and employees, that there are consequences for behaviour which embarrasses their employer or coworkers.