Tattoos used to be considered part of a counterculture. It’s probably a fair statement to say that for years, many people associated tattoos with gangs, bikers, and other groups that were thought to operate outside of the social center. Today, tattoos have gained wider social acceptance and more and more people, men and women alike, have them. People with tattoos work in a variety of industries and hold entry-level jobs as well as top executive positions. So, what’s an employer to do? Is body art a workplace issue? Does having a visible tattoo say anything about an individual that is relevant to his or her job?
In today’s global marketplace, employers are taking more seriously the need to provide a work environment that welcomes employees from many different backgrounds. The competition to attract and retain skilled workers has resulted in corporate cultures that strive to demonstrate the value placed on individual and group contributions. And there is increasing attention paid to offering a company culture and benefit package that supports a variety of lifestyles. Should someone with a visible tattoo be treated any differently?
Depending on what and where the tattoo is, there may or may not be an issue for employers. The laws still tend to support employer dress code/appearance policies in general and employers retain some flexibility in creating rules that require employees to present themselves in a way that is consistent with the employer’s image. But that doesn’t mean that banning tattoos altogether is appropriate. In some cases, it can still violate the law.