As anyone with visible tattoos knows, ink could kill an interview. Sometimes, you make it through to the final rounds and maybe you feel confident about your chances. Then the phone call comes and you were passed over. Some may say the tattoo isn’t in accordance with dress code while others suggest you arent a good fit. For those who already have jobs and then decided to add visible ink or other body modifications, your employer may have asked you to cover up or be dismissed.
The reaction certainly leaves a bad taste in your mouth. It feels like discrimination based on your appearance because you chose to express your individuality on your skin. You might think there are laws protecting you from such scrutiny in the workplace. However, when it comes to dress code, the employer has the right to set the standard and terminate anyone who doesnt comply.
There are certain factors regarding your appearance that are protected by law. For example, if your religion requires you to dress a certain way then you may have a case for employment discrimination. If your religious requirements run afoul of safe business practices, like if you have piercings or facial hair and work with food, you would have to change to meet code.
Generally speaking, federal law doesn’t recognize tattoo discrimination. Some states have additional categories of anti-discrimination laws. Michigan protects employees from discrimination based upon their height and weight. Washington D.C. also has an extension of employment rights to personal appearance. These are the exceptions and not the rule.
Turning to the First Amendment wont help much in cases of tattoo discrimination either. It doesn’t apply in dress code issues. Most of the workforce doesn’t step into their place of business wearing what their heart desires. As much as you long for sweats when youre feeling terrible or how deeply you want to rip off your tie on a tough day, it isn’t practical. There’s some sort of uniform, whether it’s a suit or a t-shirt with a logo on it. Enforcing a separate dress code for women could be considered discrimination, but that taps into gender discrimination more than any other issue.
Tattoo discrimination is legal because, according to current laws, it isn’t discrimination. You are free to have as much ink as you like, but with culture today it’s best to think twice. You aren’t required to disclose every mark on your body to your employer. So if the tattoos aren’t visible, then no one is the wiser. Also consider your boss’s reaction. If he or she wants to work with you and compromise, maybe the quest for total tattoo acceptance isnt a battle to fight today. If the reaction is hostile, consider how comfortable you are working for this person and if you really might be a better fit somewhere else.
About the Author of “Tattoo Discrimination – Why Is It Legal?
Written on behalf of the marketing department for Robert Koenig, personal injury attorney by Michiko Fuller.