Tattoo and Piercing Discrimination in the Workplace

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 Can I Be Fired for My Tattoos and Piercings?

If you have visible tattoos or piercings, you may be wondering whether your employer can dismiss you or force you to cover up while at work. Your employer’s dress code and grooming regulations will determine whether or not you can.

While working, your employer has the authority to require that you remove jewelry or cover up a tattoo. Furthermore, because many company leaders and managers are older, they may still believe that body art is a kind of teenage delinquency and hence regard it as unprofessional.

Employment standards do not protect people with tattoos or piercings unless they are religiously required. If you were dismissed because of your body art, you would likely lose your discrimination lawsuit.

Having said that, certain jobs and corporations allow – and even embrace – those with body art.

Body art is frequently used in the creative arts, including music, painting, writing, and acting. It is also popular in the sports, design, and culinary industries.

Some companies may be more supportive of such body art if they cultivate a young and “modern” image. On the other hand, some occupations are on the opposite extreme of the spectrum.

In the medical and legal industries, for example, patients or clients who have conspicuous body art may feel uneasy or distrustful of their doctors or lawyers. As a result, employers will prohibit tattoos and further piercings.

As a result, it’s crucial to investigate any employment you’re considering and learn about their business culture to know you’ll be a good fit in their organization—body art and all.

Employer Dress Code and Grooming Policies

Most businesses have a dress code policy, albeit the rules vary greatly depending on the industry.

Employers can generally design their tattoos and piercings policy in the workplace to represent their corporate culture as long as they do not discriminate on the basis of a protected class.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal statute that forbids businesses from discriminating against employees based on gender, race, color, national origin, or national origin.

Some jurisdictions, like California, have even stricter rules, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of age, religion, marital status, handicap, medical conditions, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

Some companies have strict restrictions regarding employee tattoos and piercings.

For example, when dealing closely with consumers or clients, an employer may demand that its staff hide all visible tattoos and piercings. So long as the requirement is not discriminatory, it is permissible. It is discriminatory based on national origin if a policy solely compels employees to hide tattoos with Chinese symbols.

If you’re wondering how to reduce the impact of body art on your future job, you can start by selecting a simple, uncontroversial design. Aside from the obvious economic benefits of not getting a large tattoo, a tiny tattoo allows you to evaluate your comfort levels with it and will not be distracting in a professional situation.

You also don’t want any objectionable statements or images on your body that can put an employer off. Remember, if you’re embarrassed to show your mother the design, you should probably reconsider.

Purchase body art that can be concealed. If you are reading this article and are concerned about tattoos on the job, avoid getting tattoos on your face, hands, or forearms. Similarly, avoid “extreme piercings” such as vampire teeth or horns.

Let’s pretend you don’t have time-travel abilities and didn’t read this article before getting body art done.

Here are some pointers:

  1. Cover it up: This is most likely the simplest solution. Hopefully, your garments conceal the majority of your tattoos. If not, bandages or make-up might be used to conceal any apparent tattoos. If it’s possible and safe to do so, leave piercings at home during work or an interview—remember, you don’t want to make a bad impression on the interviewer.
  2. Look for a position where appearance isn’t a factor: If you are highly tattooed, have several body piercings, or have noticeably unsuitable body art, you may not be a viable candidate for some occupations that require and require frequent engagement with the public. But don’t forget that you should look for a job where you can be yourself. You’ll probably be happier in a workplace that accepts your body art. So, look for a career that will accept you for who you are and will promote your uniqueness.
  3. Take it out: You can get your tattoo medically removed as a last option. However, unless you regret your tattoo or need to remove it to further your career, your body art is a statement of who you are and what you stand for, and you should not feel obligated to remove it. Furthermore, tattoo removal is not only costly and time-consuming, but it is also excruciatingly painful. Similarly, while some piercings can be easily removed during the workday, others cannot and must be removed permanently. Before accepting a job that requires such a decision, examine whether you are willing to make that removal.

Be who you are and do it well. Your body art is a manifestation of who you are.

While there may be challenges in your professional career, you should look for a job where you feel respected and accepted. Find a career that recognizes your body art as an important part of your identity.

What If Your Employer Enforces a Dress Code Inconsistently?

An employer who implements the dress code policy regarding tattoos and piercings inconsistently may be deemed accountable for discrimination against tattoos and piercings.

Assume a male employee gets fired because of his piercings and tattoos. Despite this, his female employees who have piercings and tattoos face no repercussions. In that situation, the choice to fire the male employee while ignoring the female employee’s breach of dress code standards may constitute proof of gender discrimination.

What If Your Piercings or Tattoos Are Part of Your Religion?

Discrimination based on religion is prohibited under Title VII.

It is prohibited for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of their tattoos or piercings if they are part of the person’s sincerely held religious beliefs. In reality, unless it would cause the employer excessive hardship, the employer must properly accommodate the employee.

To avoid discrimination charges and wrongful termination, an employer must consistently enforce their anti-tattoo policy. It would be illegal, for example, to allow members of one religious group to display tattoos at work while prohibiting members of another religious group from doing so.

It would also be illegal for an employer to permit certain types of tattoos while prohibiting others. An employer who accepts tattoos portraying arbitrary symbols but forbids tattoos expressing a person’s religion will almost certainly face a tattoo discrimination lawsuit.

Freedom of Speech and Expression

When people argue that someone infringes on their freedom of speech or expression by not allowing them to speak, they make a common mistake.

While the First Amendment contains a “freedom of speech” phrase, the wording of the amendment stipulates that Congress may not pass any legislation “abrogating freedom of speech.”

In this aspect, the amendment solely applies to governments and not to private employers.

For example, suppose you work for the government and have a tattoo that says “Black Lives Matter” on your arm. Because the tattoo is a form of communication, and you work for the government, it is illegal for your employer (the government) to terminate you because of your tattoo.

If you were a coffee shop employee, you could be fired for the same tattoo if it violated the company’s dress code.

Do I Need an Attorney?

If you believe you have been wrongfully discriminated against because of your tattoos or piercings, contact an experienced discrimination lawyer. An attorney can assist you in evaluating your case and determining if you have a valid claim.

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