Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tattoos and Piercings Still Viewed Negatively in the Workplace



In my 2011 article The Employee with the Dragon Tattoo I addressed some of the employment law issues facing employers as new generations of employees enter the workplace.  While tattoos have become more mainstream, particularly among members of Generations “Y” and “Z”, this type of self-expression is unlikely to be an asset in career advancement.

In a recent article Survey: Tattoos Hurt Your Chances of Getting a Job Salary.Com surveyed 2700 people and  76% of respondents felt tattoos and piercings hurt a job applicant's chances of being hired during a job interview.  More than one third - 39% of those surveyed, believe that having employees with visible tattoos and piercings, reflect poorly on the employer/business.  Of those surveyed, 42% felt visible tattoos are always inappropriate at work, with 55% reporting the same about body piecings.

As I noted in my 2011 article, employers could face potential Title VII liability for workplace restrictions on tattoos that are part of a religious practice.  Employers should generally avoid any overly broad dress code or similar policy that does not acknowledge the potential need to offer accommodation.  While religious tattoos or piercings may be subject to accommodation, those worn for secular or purely decorative reasons do not need to be accommodated under Title VII.  As such, it is legally within an employer’s right to require that tattoos, piercings or other body art be covered up in the workplace.  Likewise, an employer can require workers to cover up any secular tattoos that could be considered offensive or a source of harassment toward other employees or customers, including, but not limited to tattoos of a sexual nature or racist symbols or images.

Mark Fijman is a labor and employment attorney with Phelps Dunbar, LLP, which has offices in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Texas, Alabama, North Carolina and London. To view his firm bio, click here. He can be reached at (601) 360-9716 and by e-mail at fijmanm@phelps.com.