The pain tatoo.
The pain tatoo.

I read an interesting article in the Dallas Morning News about folks getting tatoos and bias against tatoos in the workplace. Some of the highlights:

  • a lot more younger people are getting tatoos and piercings;
  • some employers have outright bans on tatoos on the neck or face;
  • some of the older folks that run companies and hire people don’t like tatoos; and
  • by excluding potential employees based on tatoos, employers risk lawsuits and are excluding a large portion of applicant pools.

First, I haven’t run into any companies that exclude persons simply based on having a tatoo but I’m sure it’s something that might be considered or at least contribute to an interviewer’s impressions about a potential employee.  Second, employers have a lot of leeway in terms of hiring foks based on their appearance as long as it is not discriminatory.  For instance, I might make the decision not to hire you becasue you don’t dress appropriately or that hot pink dyed hair is not appropriate for the workplace.  Now if a tatoo is tied to religion we’re talking about an entirely different situation.

The article’s main point is that as social norms change so must workplace policies.  I don’t disagree with that, but we’re just not to a point where tatoos have reached total acceptance in the workplace, especially the more traditionally conservative occupations (doctors, lawyers, bankers, consultants etc.).  If a potential employee was really talented and qualified and had a tatoo that was on the wrist and not noticeable, it’s probably not a big deal.  Of course if it’s a tatoo with letters “pain” across the knuckles we have a different situation.

There are no hard and fast rules on tatoos and hypothetically an employee’s or applicant’s tatoo could invoke the protection of some state, federal, or local laws.  Of course this would be in very limited situations.  The point is it probably doesn’t make sense to have per say rules that exclude applicants becasue of a tatoo these days.