Employers, How do you Handle Inappropriate Costumes?
And while most adults tend to look for that uniqueness and “shock value,” a few people took it overboard this year—one woman’s “getup” even cost her a job.
Meet Alicia Ann Lynch, a woman from Michigan who dressed up as a victim of last April’s Boston Marathon bombing. In a photo (in which she appears to be in an office setting), Lynch has on sporting runner’s clothing (complete with a runner number) and splattered “blood” and bruises on her forehead and both legs.
According to the story, Lynch shared the photo on her instagram and Twitter accounts—@SomeSKANKinMI—this past Halloween and sent the world wide web into a rampage. Like her choice of costume, Lynch’s social network name could also be viewed as questionable—from a professional standpoint—but that’s a different topic for a different day.
The article listed just a few people’s reactions after seeing the photo:
Rebecca Brown @Chinchillazllla
@SomeSKANKinMI People at the Boston Marathon died in terror and agony… and you looked at the images and thought “lol funny costume idea”?
Bri Ruiz @lesbreehonest
someone dressed up as a boston marathon bombing victim for halloween I’m done with this world
Sydney Corcoran @Sydney23Lynne
@SomeSKANKinMI You should be ashamed, my mother lost both her legs and I almost died in the marathon. You need a filter.
Lynch (and her family) received death threats online and via phone, and people even distributed “racy” photos of her online. On top of all of that she lost her job.
This unfortunate incident led me to wonder, just how should employers handle inappropriate costumes/ attire during the holiday season?
Another recent example was the photo of three people who dressed up as George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin, and (presumably) Zimmerman’s wife. One man wore black face, with a “blood stained” gray hoodie, while the other smiled as he—dressed in a “neighborhood watch” t-shirt—aimed a gun (made out of his hand) at “Martin’s” head. Talk about totally inappropriate, especially seeing that Martin was only 17 and—like many in the Boston marathon bombings—is now deceased.
What if, like Lynch, these three had shown up to work donning such costumes? What would the business do? Or should the company even do anything at all, as workers have a right to express themselves, as does every human being.
But one must think about the significance of a costume when deciding whether or not an employer should step in. Elvis is also deceased, as well as Michael Jackson, but when people dress up like these two individuals for Halloween, there is no fuss. Why?
I think it’s because these two and others like them don’t necessarily represent an awful scenario or a part of American history. The Boston marathon bombings were a terrible time for not only those involved, but all Americans. Just like folks would be appalled if anyone dressed up like a victim of 9/11 because the event represented such a tragic time in our nation’s history.
But should an employee lose his/her job over a costume?
I’m no employer or in the line of management, but I say this is a sticky situation. On one end, no manager wants his/her workers to feel uncomfortable by another worker’s actions or create a type of uneasiness in the company culture. Yet, managers also don’t’ want to impose on individual rights and freedom of expression. Then again, workers truly do represent an organization so, like in Lynch’s case, people could see her costume, conclude it is tasteless and then in turn associate “tastelessness” with her employer. This will certainly harm an employer’s reputation and brand.
Are companies just looking out for their brand and should punish workers for inappropriate costumes? Or is completely firing a worker for a Halloween costume extreme?