Dressing up in silly and sometimes-outrageous costumes is part of the fun of Halloween. But the federal employment law firm Tully Rinckey today reminds feds not to let things get too out of hand when suiting up for the office costume party. Feds who go for shock value with their costumes could end up jeopardizing their careers, said attorney John Mahoney:
In an effort to have the best costume, many people get pretty risque or even insensitive with their choice of garb. As explosive and instant as social media has gotten, these photos taken at such parties can be published online in a matter of seconds. Federal employees must be especially careful because they can be, and most often times are, charged with conduct unbecoming of a federal employee. The charge is very broad and supervisors love to use it because it’s easy to prove.
Which means if you act the fool at the party, your boss is likely to choose someone else for that next promotion — or could even get you fired if you step too far out of line.
It’s happened several times in recent years. An offensive costume almost killed former Immigration and Customs Enforcement head Julie Myers’ confirmation, even though she wasn’t wearing it. (At an ICE Halloween party in 2007, an employee dressed in a black-and-white striped prison jumpsuit, wore a dreadlocked wig and darkened his skin to look black. Myers was one of three judges who dubbed his costume “most original” and posed for a picture with him. Myers’ nomination was quickly put on hold when the photo leaked, but the Senate soon confirmed her.)
And just last week, photos surfaced from the 2010 Halloween party of a major “foreclosure mill” law firm that showed employees dressed up like homeless people or foreclosed homeowners. The law firm of Steven L. Baum denied that its employees dress up in a way that mocks people who have lost their homes, but the pictures sparked outrage toward the firm across the internet.
So if your costume is likely to be featured on one of those “We’re a culture, not a costume” posters, you may want to rethink it — or at least not wear it to the office.
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