Tattoo Topic Tuesday – Tattoos in the Workplace

Today’s Tattoo Topic Tuesday is one I am glad to see changing attitudes on, but we’ve still got progress and to me the ultimate solution has not yet been arrived at yet (though I wouldn’t be surprised if we arrive at it sometime in my lifetime).

At one point tattoos in the workplace were a huge no-no. They were never accepted and more often than not those with tattoos in highly visible and/or impossible to conceal locations have faced serious employment discrimination over the years. Further, I do not know of a high-profile politician who has a tattoo (though I’m sure there are some Democrats/Liberals who do) and you know as well as I do an ultra-conservative politician would use a tattoo as an attack against his/her opponent.

Whereas visible tattoos, body piercings and other modifications might be a death knell in some organizations, luckily we are seeing a pretty big shift in attitudes and acceptance of them. The company I work for has no restrictions on visible tattoos, body piercings or anything of the sort so long as such things do not create a workplace hazard (as body jewelry sometimes can). I’ve seen visibly tattooed people in all sorts of professional and private settings nowadays. I imagine acceptance will continue to grow as more and more people are sporting tattoos than ever and as the crusty conservative baby boomers start dying off (currently about 14% of all American adults has at least one tattoo and that jumps to about 38% among American adults aged 18-40*).

Alas, there are still those few holdouts. I interviewed for a position with a telecommunications company about a year ago and one of the things I asked about was their policy on visible tattoos and lo and behold they don’t allow them. Sorry, I’m not about to wear long sleeves in the intense Texas summers for the sole purpose of covering my tattoos. It’s just not going to happen. Not to mention should I ever get tattoos in non-concealable places (as I probably will at some point if my hair loss gets any worse) that just takes me out of the running for a lot of things. I guess it’s the price I pay but I imagine in another 10 years or so it won’t be hardly any issue and of course if I ever get to launch my own business I won’t have to worry about it at all.

Of course, I think the correct approach is to legally protect body modifications and people with them from hiring, firing, dress code, etc. discrimination. If the tattoos would not be covered with the normal work uniform I do not think employers should be legally able to make its employees go out of their way to cover their ink, remove body piercings (especially fresh ones!), etc.; I’ve offered a defense of this position in a previous blog post.

So I think the takeaway from this is go ahead and get that tattoo, but until we are legally protected exercise some caution and realize that there is still some stigma attached to it. Though not a total death knell, it still might cause you some problems in certain professions. Chances are you’ll be OK though.