Having tattoos was once considered a taboo shared among only the most rebellious groups in society, commonly associated with sailors, criminals and circus members.
Flash forward to the year 2012 where, according to StatisticBrain.com, an estimated 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo.
The culture of tattoos has lost some of its “hardcore” meaning over the years, but with that it embraces a new interpretation. With more and more people going under the needle, society continues to push the envelope on social discrimination against tattoos.
From a mainstream perspective, visible tattoos are no longer considered rebellious or scary, but are popularly classified as modern and even fashionable. Tattoos no longer define the type of person who has them but reflect the personality of the group they belong to—a group that refuses to care what other people think, specifically the opinions of job employers.
It’s obvious by the mass number of tattooed people in the U.S. that the superstition of limited job opportunities for those with ink is false, despite what our parents may have told us to scare us into not getting a tattoo after we turned eighteen.
Of course there are millions of people with tattoos that are employed, but that’s probably due to the fact that they do what they can to cover them up while at work.
The truth is that there will always be jobs for those with tattoos, permitting certain restrictions of course.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on race, color, religion, age, or gender. Employers are, however, allowed to impose dress codes and appearance policies, which means under law they can require employees to cover-up all visible tattoos.
Peter Ronza, spokesman for the Society for Human Resource Management, said if more people with tattoos move into high-level positions, tattoos will become more accepted.
Just under 40 percent of U.S. adults ages 18-25 have one or more tattoos, according to a 2012 statistic. This means that if the tattoo trend lasts, young inked-Americans will become the majority and take over the nation, forcing employers to look at an applicant’s skill sets and experience rather than the art on their skin.
Don’t judge a book by its cover will no longer be just a metaphorical phrase, but society’s biggest reference.
Aside from the typical jobs that allow visible tattoos like those in the arts, restaurant industry, retail and office jobs, there are also some large organizations that allow employees to show their tattoos as long as they are not offensive, including Wells Fargo, Sprint, AT&T and UCLA, according to ModifiedMind.com.
“(Having tattoos) does not reflect someone’s work ability,” said Tim Olivas, 27, a manager at Smoqued BBQ in Orange who has numerous visible tattoos.
“I think we’re already seeing a huge trend in employers being much more open-minded about it,” Olivas said. “There will always be some that will care but I’d imagine them being outnumbered by those that embrace tattoos.”
Labor and employment attorney David Barron says workplaces are allowed to limit visible tattoos with enforcing dress code rules equally across the board. It’s all about the fine print. According to Barron, if HR managers create a company policy that specifically restricts offensive tattoos or requires the coverup of visible tattoos, the employee is liable to conceal it.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to choose between a tattoo or a career, but you should still be conscience of company policies regarding body art. Choosing the right placement, size and content of a tattoo can keep job opportunities open rather than limit you in your future career.