Tattoos in the workplace

(Cindy Proaño / Daily Titan)

For decades, many workplaces have prohibited employees from having dyed hair, piercings or visible tattoos. While these physical appearances are often seen by employers as taboo or unprofessional, they are nothing more than just creative outlets. 

The longer this unwarranted stigma and old-fashioned manner remains intact in the workforce, the longer employees are stripped of their right to self-expression. 

According to the Houston Chronicle, an employer can legally request that employees remove facial jewelry and cover up their tattoos while working, as a dress code requirement. Although dress codes are appropriate and ensure workplace safety, creating an environment where an employee has to cover up with extra layers of clothing because they have a tattoo, facial piercing or dyed hair only promotes hostility and stereotypes 

A poll conducted by the Society for Case Research reported that 21% of U.S. adults surveyed had tattoos, with 38% were between the ages 30-39 and 22% between 18-24.  

Despite over one-fifth of adults having ink on their bodies, tattoos are still seen in a negative light. According to the Huffington Post, visible tattoos have a predominantly negative effect on employment selection, but is mostly due to the hiring manager’s perception of customer expectations.

Clearly, there is a large population of people with permanent tattoos, and this group is very likely to increase as tattoos become more popular over time. With tattoos being more normalized in society, the idea that someone’s qualifications and experience can and should be overshadowed by a small tattoo on their wrist is absurd and small-minded. 

Fortunately, not all corporations have clung to dated restrictions. According to CBS News, Disney is now allowing its theme park employees to show their tattoos, as long as they are below the neck and deemed appropriate. While these small restrictions remain, the permission for cast members to show their tattoos is still a giant step forward from the strict dress code Disney previously upheld and is an example for other businesses to follow suit. 

If Disney, one of the largest global corporations, can update their restrictions regarding body art and piercings, other businesses can make some changes as well. 

The misinterpretation that having tattoos, facial piercings and colored hair makes a person less hardworking than those who don’t is obsolete. Off the clock, when someone’s colorful hair is down and their tattoos are freely shown, they are still the same person reaching sales quotas or even saving lives. The exposure of one’s outer identity does not make them any less trustworthy or professional. 

According to the History of Tattoos, in 2012 roughly around 45 million people in the U.S. alone had one or more tattoos, 30% of all college graduates in the U.S. have tattoos and 69% of people don’t see people with tattoos any more or less deviant than people without tattoos. 

Based on this data, the younger generation has at least one tattoo and over half of the public sees no problem with them or sees people with tattoos as unapproachable. It is no longer acceptable for corporations to dictate what we do with our bodies. As society progresses toward a more accepting and inclusive atmosphere, employers have no choice but to revise their dress codes. 

If employers refuse to accept the changes in American culture, they will soon be out of any new hires. As more and more people find self-expression in tattoos, it is crucial for corporations to let go of outdated perceptions and focus more on personality and work ethic than physical appearance. 

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