Workplace Tattoo Rules, Rewritten

April 25, 2013  |  

NBA’s JR Smith takes tattooing to new heights. (Imaginechina via AP Images)

Remember when getting a tattoo was the rebellious thing to do? Now it seems like everyone has one. According to a 2010 Pew Research poll, 23% of Americans have a tattoo; that percentage increases to 40% for millennials. But that doesn’t mean every company wants their employees inked up. A professionalism survey by the Center for Professional Excellence at York College found that 61% of human resources managers said a tattoo would hurt a job applicants chances.

Some businesses have caught up with the times, but these are usually companies and industries that court creative types. In fact, tattoos can be a plus for designers, fashionistas, and other professionals looking to portray themselves as artsy and free-spirited.

Workers looking to break into more conservative settings have to be more careful about their body art decisions. According to the CNN:

“Eight percent of people with tattoos report trouble at work,” from being forced to hide them to being restricted from performing certain tasks,” [Amy Derick, co-author of a study on tattoos by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology] says. For example, a grocery store employee with a tattoo on their hand might be asked to perform tasks less likely to bring them into contact with the public, like stocking shelves instead of working a register.

It’s not just the location of tattoos you have to worry about. Subject matter can present challenges as well. Marc J. Scheiner, a senior associate specializing in employment law at Duane Morris, tells the New York Times, “No federal law prohibits employers from making a hiring decision because of a tattoo. But clearly you can’t discriminate on the basis of religion, so if someone has a religion-based tattoo, that may call for different analysis.”

What’s a tatted up businesswoman to do?

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  • As much as I think that tattoos can be tasteful and beautiful, and I don’t believe that people should be judged solely on the type of ink they have, the fact remains that there are certain settings where it isn’t acceptable, or professional, for them to be visible. Having a tiger crawling up the side of your neck just doesn’t look right if you’re working in an office, unless the atmosphere is such where everyone has tattoos, or very relaxed. There’s nothing wrong with making sure that your tattoo can be concealed.

  • chanela

    wait, tattoo concealer? if you need to conceal it then why have it in the first place? SMH

  • Ms. Kameria

    It’s common sense. If you have a tattoo make sure it is covered at your job or any other professional environment. Unless of course you work at a tattoo shop. Not everyone wants to see your “meaningful art”……

    • You hit the nail right on the head. Im inked up and work in a corp environment but everything is coverable with a long sleeve shirt. Rule of thumb should always be no tatts past your collar bone up or below your wrists to your fingertips.

      • chanela

        this new generation isn’t trying to hear that though. they MUST have a picture of marilyn monroe on their neck.. and yes it has to be giant. smh

        • Ms. Kameria

          And then want to cry when no one wants to hire them.