Tattoos and body piercings in the workplace have been debated for years.
The debate oftentimes centers around whether they should be allowed, whether they should be visible and whether they should even be a factor in employment. It’s a question human resource experts and business owners have to address more frequently as the number of tattooed and pierced individuals rises in the United States.
The Pew Research Center — a Washington, D.C. non-partisan group that conducts public polls, demographic research and media analysis about issues, attitudes and trends — reported in 2017 that almost 40 percent of people born after 1980 have a tattoo and 25 percent have a piercing somewhere other than an earlobe.
Gone are the days when tattoos were only a gang symbol or piercings were only found on earlobes. Tattoos can be done for several reasons including self-expression or religious purposes.
The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that opinions about tattoos and piercings also have shifted. A Pennsylvania hospital rated the competency of doctors with and without body piercings and tattoos. The results showed no preference for doctors who did not have tattoos or piercings, a sign that the professional abilities
of those with tattoos or piercings is no longer questioned as it once was.
The best way to address the situation is to have a policy in place, human resource experts agree. Here are some suggestions for how to include tattoos and body piercings in the company’s dress code policy, according to HR Acuity, an employee relations case management company that partners with companies to provide advice on human resource issues:
• Specify guidelines for tattoo or piercing visibility. For example, neck and face tattoos may not be allowed or shown, but others can be visible.
• Consider the type of business that is being conducted: Will the employee have personal interaction with clients or sit behind a desk?
• Describe what tattoo content is acceptable. There are some restrictions — bad language, nudity and offensive symbols of hate, prejudice and sexism — that will be banned. Employers have to be careful when it comes to tattoos employees have for religious beliefs. In these cases, it’s best to consult with an attorney.
• Prohibit actions by other employees that point out or draw attention to an employee’s tattoos in the company’s code of conduct. This is a form of employee misconduct in which the tattooed employee is being discriminated against or harassed.
Any decisions that are made need to be inwriting, reviewed by an attorney to ensure the business is not discriminating and explained to employees or job candidates who are offered positions, human resource experts advise. Employees should sign all policies to ensure they understand and will abide by them. ♦