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Tattoos In The Workplace: A Review of Policies

Posted on December 28 2012

Tattoos in the Workplace


For some people, wearing tattoos on any part of their body can make them cool or fashionable. But for the ranks of the employed who have tattoos, donning body art may be subject to regulations and policies in their workplace. It may be tolerable for some companies but not acceptable to others. This is where a clear HR policy needs to be in place as different working environments have different policies. If a company gets one of the HR Consultancy Firms to help them make it clear what’s acceptable for employees when they first come into the company, this will prevent issues further down the road. It is important to understand the different policies that govern the wearing of tattoos in the workplace. Sometimes the issue of tattoos can cause significant disruption amongst employees, and if your views are not particularly strong on the topic as an employer, it might be a good idea to design an employee feedback form to gauge how everyone feels. That way, you can adjust rules and regulations to suit everybody and improve employee satisfaction. Take a look at these free employee survey samples if you need some inspiration for this.

According to a 2010 Pew Research Center report, 40 percent of adults between 18 to 29 years old don one tattoo with 50 percent having several tattoos. It’s definitely different depending on the age group surveyed. A similar 2006 report revealed that only 10 percent of adults age 41 to 64 years old have a tattoo.

Legal Boundaries

According to court rulings, it is at the discretion of the employer whether or not to allow their employees to have visible tattoos on their bodies. Depending on the kind and location of the body art, current laws support the right of the employer to ban or regulate tattoos in the workplace. The law is being applied on a case-by-case basis depending on the industry or occupation of the employee, meaning that some are looking to other lawyers when it comes to discrimination matters (learn more here).

Some jobs do refuse to hire people with tattoos because of image concerns, however, there are some grey areas, such as getting a hidden one or getting one during the employment stage which they didn’t mention in the contract/interview. If this does arise and you feel like you have been unfairly let go or reprimanded for it, you can always contact employment lawyers like Baird Quinn LLC or ones in your immediate area, to see how you can be helped with this issue.

In the hospitality industry, for instance, employees who directly mingle or deal with customers may not be allowed to have a tattoo. This is different in the case of a dishwasher or cook who does not have direct contact with customers.


There are many different factors that may have an impact on the policy created regarding the issue of tattoos in the workplace. For instance, gender and religion may come into play. Generally, men are more likely to wear visible tattoos than women. An interviewer may have a more drastic reaction to a female job applicant with a tattoo than a male with a similar tattoo. This type of gender bias could even be interpreted as sexual discrimination but that’s a completely different topic.

In general, tattoo related policies should focus on the business at hand and not on something as subjective such as gender or religion. It should always enforce what is best for the company. This way, employees will not have the notion that it was drafted in a discriminatory fashion.

Tattoo-related office policies should be created in such a way that the employees are involved in the decision making process. You can coordinate with the human resources department in doing such. At the end of it all, you should always communicate tattoo related policies with your new and current employees or stipulate your company policy clearly in your employee handbook to keep them informed.

About the Author
Melvin Magadia is a writer and blogger for He writes helpful guides about a wide range of topics but concentrates mostly on business, technology and travel-related posts.