Tattoos in the Workplace

Are Tattoos in the Workplace Acceptable?

Do you or someone you know have a tattoo? Chances are the answer to at least one of those questions is, yes. This is not a “new” form of personal adornment. Permanent tattoos can be traced back to the caveman. In the United States, “everyday” people inking themselves is at an all-time high. In fact, around 45 million Americans have tattoos. However, when it comes to the workplace, tattoos can be limiting or even job-ending depending on the situation.

This poses the question: Are tattoos in the workplace acceptable? The answer is, it depends.

Reasons to Prohibit

It is true that employers are within their rights to withhold employment or fire employees who get tattoos. The main reason is company image. If an inked employee works with outside factors (e.g. clients, vendors, partners) that employee is a representative of the organization. In other words, how the employee looks and acts has the potential to directly or indirectly influence someone for or against the company. Appearance does matter, and employers are aware of this fact.

Tattoos can affect a company’s brand. For example, if a worker’s job description is to be a liaison with a predominantly conservative organization then a visible tattoo depicting gang symbols and/or foul language would not be appropriate. On the flipside, those same examples may be considered “body art” in another industry with a more creative, artful, edgy business model (e.g. graphic design or entertainment related industries).

In any case, a business must be careful to have clear HR policies when it comes to tattoos in the workplace. Above all, the policy must be clear, consistent and non-discriminating.

Set Forth a Policy

According to SHRM, employers are within their rights to prohibit tattoos with profane or demeaning images or slogans. With that said, it is also important to note tattoos are a personal choice. The reason an individual gets a tattoo ranges from whimsical to deeply religious, so employers must be very careful.

Make sure to set forth specific parameters for allowing or prohibiting body art. Overall make sure the policy prohibiting tattoos states a legitimate business reason and does not limit a protected class.

Employers must make sure that the rules are known throughout the organization. All hiring managers must be on the same page through training, and the rules regarding tattoos must be clearly stated in the employee handbook. This will ensure the organization’s policy is being followed during the hiring process and employees are informed about when personal appearance decisions could negatively affect their employment status.

Need Help Establishing Human Resource Policies?

SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc. can help your organization establish steadfast policies and procedures for employees. Make sure your employee handbook is clear about personal appearance policies when hiring and retaining quality talent. Contact or call 330-255-1101 today and speak with one of our HR specialists for more information.

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