Tattoos in the Workforce

Tattoos_Workplace_MillennialsDo you know someone with a tattoo? Tattoos are now becoming mainstream due to their increased acceptance in society. About 60% of people with blue collar jobs have a tattoo. Tattoos have meaning or tell a story about a person. Certain cultures encourage tattoos because it symbolizes overcoming hardship and their personality. There are individuals who still hold the traditional negative connotations about tattoos even though tattoo art has been practiced for a long time. It is an individuals’ freedom of expression in regards to deciding to get a piercing or a tattoo. Some businesses discriminate regarding tattoos upon hiring, however more recently more businesses have shown greater tolerance assuming tattoos are not displayed during work hours. Discrimination should not exist against individuals that decide to get tattoos, as it does not affect how a person performs on the job assuming the tattoo is covered. If a tattoo would come across as offensive to the 3rd person viewing it, and the 1st person covers the tattoo, there should not be any issue whatsoever.

Here is a recent and extreme situation regarding tattoo related discrimination that is fortunate not to exist in The United States. Naomi Coleman, a British woman on vacation to Sri Lanka was deported due to a tattoo of Buddha on her arm. Authorizes in Sri Lanka stated the tattoo was culturally offensive to those who practiced Buddhism, resulting in deportation from the country. She explained that she has been to other countries that have many individuals that practice Buddhism, such as Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal, and India without offending anyone. In addition, she herself is Buddhist, attending meditation workshops in Southeast Asia. Additionally, Naomi Coleman has flown to Sri Lanka twice in the past without any difficulties regarding her tattoo. Even though she was a tourist, she never meant to insult anyone’s religion. Though Sri Lanka formally apologized, it portrayed a negative image for those who have tattoos, in particular those that portray religious meaning or devotion. Though The authorities offered a free holiday to Sri Lanka regarding the incident, after her treatment will be unlikely to return due to the discrimination she has faced regarding her tattoo.

Another situation that is not as extreme, is that the army has released a new set of rules for tattoos. Being in the military is a career that a soldier has chosen, so they must adhere to the rules. Fortunately for military soldiers, tattoos are more accepted. They are banning extreme tattoos that could be racist or indecent to another person. Soldiers are not allowed to have tattoos on their head, face, neck, wrists, hands and fingers. The biggest one, which are sleeve tattoos, are now banned below the elbow and knees. Soldiers can only have four visible tattoos that are the size of their hand. The soldiers are given a 30 day period to adhere to the new set of rules. Before that 30 day is up, soldiers who already have tattoos that violates the code, must take a picture of their tattoos and date it so it goes on record. Routine checks will be made to make sure the rules are being followed.

Tattoos demonstrate a sense of individualism in a depersonalized situation such as the army, police, prison, or other situations where individuals must be uniformed. Tattooing is a sign of freedom of expression, because a person has a right to do what they wish with their body. Ronald Alsop says in his article that, “While some companies have already moved beyond perceptions that tattoos are low-class or gang-related, they still often prefer that employees conceal body art as much as possible, especially if they interact directly with customers.” If the tattoo can be covered during work hours when working with customers, then there should not be any problem with an individual having tattoos. If a person is not able to cover up their tattoo, and they do not work with customers, having a tattoo should not change the quality of work the individual performs.

Mr. Hempel, the Inverness lawyer, says he “doesn’t flaunt his tattoos around the office. According to a 2001 survey on tattoos in the workplace from the Internet site, which deals with work issues, the most popular placements of tattoos are areas that can be hidden: the backs, arms and legs.” Some examples of companies and their policies could be listed in this article.

Similarly, Macy’s, the big US retailer, tells employees to avoid “excessive” facial piercings and tattoos that distract or offend customers. A Macy’s spokeswoman declined to explain what qualifies as “excessive.””

I personally can agree with the Macy’s spokeswoman because I am employed for Macy’s as a Retail Sales Associate. In my department, there are a few Sales Associates, as well as myself who have tattoos. The co-workers all have full sleeves on their arm in which they wear long dress shirts to cover the tattoos. No one notices the tattoos on my back because my tattoos are covered. My employer is not too strict regarding tattoos because employees cover tattoos during work. On a day where the department is overcrowded with people and is hot, the sales associates’ sleeve tattoos could be seen and no one has said or complained about the tattoo. A lot of managers at the Macy’s that I am employed in, have tattoos, and it does not bother people in Hawaii because as long as they are doing their job to make the customers happy, then that is all that matters.

Some countries like Mexico, Great Britain, Samoa and Hawaii, see tattoos as part of the culture. In Mexico, tattoos symbolizes courage. In Great Britain, tattoos date back to royalty and still is important to both royalty and regular citizens. In Samoa, tattoos are called “tatau” and represents rank, and adulthood. Complicated patterns are designed by a tatau master specifically for the individual, are tattooed onto the body by hand, and is extremely painful. Wearing a tatau also shows endurance to pain. In Hawaii, tattoos are called “kakau” and was practiced until Western influence stopped it. Kakau is used to distinguish people from one another and to guard the people’s health and spiritual being. On men, kakaus were done on the arms, legs, torsos and face. Women got their tattoos on their hands, fingers, wrists and tongue. Even today in Hawaii, we still see a lot of tataus and kakaus.

On the contrary, Tattoos can make an individual look unprofessional, and can present a negative image to the company. Would a company really fire or pass up an opportunity to have a great individual working for them? “As consulting firm CEO John Challenger explained, most employers today would agree that a person’s appearance is nowhere near as important as his or her professional skills.  “Even in this tight job market, most companies aren’t going to view tattoos too harshly.  Companies have a vested interest in hiring the most qualified candidate.””

Tattoo policies for positions in Schools and Universities are different depending on the institution.  Bruce Potts, a professor at The University of New Mexico, has a full tribal tattoo on his face.  “I haven’t had trouble getting a job because success is all about how one presents him or herself, and doesn’t solely depend on appearance,” he explained. This is another example of an individual who has tattoos but is still able to get a good job. I had some professors at my college who had their tattoos visible, but no one cared at all. This shows that people are becoming more accepting of tattoos.

People should not be discriminated against by employers because they have tattoos. Nowadays, 60% of people have tattoos, and tattooing seems to be on the mainstream. Tattoos represent cultures, ideologies, the person’s values, and can tell a life story. Soldiers wear tattoos to represent the hardships that they have been through during wars. Tattoos are seen as a symbol of endurance in some countries and royalty in others. It demonstrates a person’s individualism and the ability to express themselves. Again, the majority of people that have tattoos wear it in a place that could be covered. If a tattoo can be covered during work hours, then the person has every right to have one. A company should not pass up a valuable employee that could be a potential asset to the company due to having a tattoo. Even though it looks unprofessional, having a tattoo does not affect the quality of work that an individual performs. The culture is changing to being more accepting, therefore tattoos should be accepted in the business world.


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