Tattoos and Piercings in the Workplace

Sporting a tattoo or a body piercing has become common practice in the contemporary world. According to a survey conducted in 2010 on freshmen enrolled in major institutes, 29% of the students had at least one tattoo or piercings. And according to a recent surveys almost 40% of American adult have a tattoo, while at least 60% have a piercing.

This goes to show that the time when these practices were considered taboo is behind us. Acceptance of tattoos and piercings in modern day society has increased.

However the problem occurs when these students step into professional life and are asked to cover up their inks and get rid of their piercings in order to get the job. The attitude of most of the corporate organizations towards tattoos and piercings is discriminatory and there are many examples to account for it. 76% of the employees feel that tattoos and piercings hurt their job interview chances.

The policies of some of the major corporations will be discussed in detail later, but let’s first talk about the legal aspect of hiring or the failure to do so with regards to a person’s tattoos and piercings.

Legal Perspective

Contrary to popular belief, it’s legal for employers to not hire you on the basis of your body art or piercings.

The law only covers race, gender, color, religion, nationality and age as grounds of discrimination but not your appearance or choice of body modifications. If a law were to be made for body inks and piercings, then you will be within your right to sue your potential employer for rejecting you on the basis of tattoos and piercings.

The only upside to this is that you are within your rights to sue a company if they fire you or refuse to promote you on these grounds. However, you’re most likely to lose because most attorneys would refuse to take your case due to the lack of legal references he or she could bring up in support of your case.

So, if you end being rejected or asked to get rid of your endeared inks and piercings, your only two options are to do as you are told or look for an employer who is more accepting.

(This is general information. Consult your attorney to obtain legal advice.)

Policies of Major Corporations

Starbucks, nation’s favorite coffeehouse has a policy which doesn’t allow its employees to sport their inks or piercings. If you disagree with their policy, well you can choose to serve coffee at any other smaller local coffeehouse.

Walmart, nation’s largest retailer prohibits facial piercings while offensive tattoos are asked to cover up. However, tattoos that are not so offensive may be allowed. They prefer to go for the clean crisp look so as to avoid complaints from conservative customers.

Sky Network got rid of their dress code some time back and according to their graduate recruitment manager, Helen Williamson, freedom of their employees to choose how they look at work is the key to them enjoying their work which is their utmost goal.

Borders, one of the country’s biggest book sellers consider body art and piercings as a plus and believe it makes their employees look way more interesting.

Ford Motor Company allows all its employees to sport tattoos and piercings. Be it a Senior Executive or a factory worker. However, workers are instructed to refrain from piercings that might endanger their safety.

Best Way to Approach This Issue

Your appearance is a major part of your personality and your freedom to do so may matter a lot to you, but what’s more important is that you understand that when you work for an employer, you are a representation of their ideals and principles. If your semblance is a hurdle in the projection of their image towards potential clients, then maybe it’s for the best that you tone it down a bit.

You can always put on your jewelry and roll up your sleeves to sport your tattoos, once you set foot outside your workplace. First impressions do matter, and that is why when you walk in for an interview, you should do your homework.

Find out if your potential bosses have a conservative mindset. Walk into your new office before your interview and see if the employees have their inks covered up or not.

You can also choose to give them the information if you feel the interview is going well and ask for their consent. Most employers see tattoos and piercings as a sign of rebellion and may see it as a challenge to their authority in the future, so if you let them know that the authority is theirs, they might even approve of your body arts.

Support Tattoos and Piercings at Work (STAPAW)

STAPAW is a movement to support all the employees who have been rejected or fired for sporting tattoos and piercings irrespective of their skill and education. Their motto is that professionalism isn’t about your appearance, but instead about the way you treat and interact with others.

STAPAW has been working to raise awareness against discrimination at workplace towards tattoos and piercings. STAPAW started when a lady was released from her post as a manager at a business when two customers filed a complaint against her tattoos and piercings. Her boss did not have a problem with her inks but because of the complaints and the fear of losing the business, he made the decision.

Her friends however decided to make the voices of all the satisfied customers heard who did not have a problem with her inks and piercings. In the coming few days, her boss got almost 500 calls regarding the issue. He then decided to hire her back.

STAPAW has been helping people fight discrimination at their work place ever since.

Firing a person with tattoos or piercings is not wrong, neither is hiring someone with tattoos and piercings, but to do either for superficial reasons, instead of more important reasons such as education, skill, experience, work spirit and character is wrong and unethical.

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