Tattoos in the Workplace
A large number of people have tattoos in the United States of America. Some regions of our country are more tattooed (and liberally minded) than others. Where you plan to work in the country is going to have a huge affect on how much anxiety you should have over your tattoos and that job. This is born out of culture and long held mythologies we wont get into. It’s the same with employers and industry and how they feel about tattoos. You can’t blame these industries or employers, they are just doing what they feel is right for their businesses within a given culture.
You should be informed.
- What are your rights (you don’t have many) as an employee?
- Which jobs or companies have tough rules against those sweet chinese letters on your neck?
- Which industries or careers are difficult to traverse or advance with that timeless tribal tattoo on your shoulder?
- How long can you hide that awesome barbed wire on your arm? What happens when my employer sees it?
Your tattoo rights at work.
Your rights as an employee in regards to your body art are minimal at best. You have the right to get a different job than the one where they fired you for having that incredible honu (turtle glyph) tattooed on your hand. The courts already have some pretty firm decisions made about your job and your tattoos. The courts basically say an employer can enforce dress & appearance policy (which includes your tattoos). The policy must be enforced fairly though. Your employer cant just fire you for tattoos and not his executive son in law who has tear drops tattooed on his cheek.
Can my employer fire me for hidden tattoos?
Your employer will generally only be concerned with the tattoos that are visible when you are dressed in their set forth attire or uniform they feel is appropriate for their employees and industry. You might cover up a tattoo with a watch for months when your employer suddenly sees it one day. Appalled, your employer fires you and they are fully within their rights to do so (mostly true story). Your employer can legally restrict all tattoos if they want. They might be inviting controversy by doing so, but they can. Any serious employer will have an employee handbook which contains its tattoo policy and what they expect of your appearance at work. You should look at it.
This might seem crazy or a bit excessive but, many large corporations with service related staff actually have “grooming assessments”. This is someone going over your physical appearance with a microscope, assessing your physical adequacy. Its at this time that you should probably reveal any hidden tattoos and come clean rather than being embarrassingly fired later on. If your hiding it with a band aid or make up or a certain length of clothing you can 100% guarantee that your going to be caught eventually. Most employers say below the sleeve line or above the neck. If its your foot or ankle, surprisingly its still too much and will be deemed inappropriate. This is particularly true for women who are generally showing more skin in their respective uniforms or work attire (skirts, dresses, open toed heels or shoes).
Some jobs don’t outright forbid tattoos but having ink can surely disrupt your ability to rise in the ranks of those jobs (model, actor or actress). Some industries and work environments where tattoos are especially bad, frowned upon and generally restricted are:
- Airlines Flight Attendants
- Customer Service
- Luxury Hotels & Resorts
- Police officers
- Petsmart employee
- Mormon youth group leader
- Pretty much any Religious Figure
- Victoria secret super model
- Mickey Mouse Club
- Government jobs (except where listed below)
- Non minimum wage employee
- Family doctors
- The babysitter
- Chuck E Cheese
Some jobs, careers or places of employment where tattoos are generally acceptable:
- Tattoo artist
- WW1 or WW2 sailor
- Hells Angels biker
- LA Rock Band
Tattoos & the Unemployed
In a tit for tat battle, Democrats last year pushing for extended social money caved into the conservative negotiators demands to prevent welfare recipients from using their benefits on tattoos (whiskey, strip bars, cigarettes, gambling, stolen firearms, xbox, psychiatry or marijuana). States are expected to be fully aligned with the US Government on this by 2014. To shed light on the welfare landscape a bit – there was $4,000,000 dollars a month (cash) given to around 49,000 people last year in the state of Alabama. All they had to do was go pick it up. Awwww SNAP The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka welfare) is attempting to induce fiscal responsibility by issuing debit cards (rather than a check). The debit cards help prevent the welfare recipient from just withdrawing cash or buying unsupported goods or services. I seriously had to drink powdered milk growing up.
Various tattoo tidbits
Helpful crowd sourced advice on tattoos in the workplace from the straight dope.