At a recent job fair, a woman approached my booth and asked me a question about hiring discrimination. She was a hiring manager from another company also exhibiting at the job fair, but she wanted to know about her son’s prospects for getting a job.
I talked to her about the type of work her son is interested in and asked some other questions. After chatting for a while, she told me that she knows her son has good qualifications, but he keeps getting turned down after the interviews. She then shared that her son has a large tattoo on his face. She asked me if I thought his tattoo might be hurting his chances of employment. I was honest with her and told her yes.
The reality is that hiring managers discriminate, and they are totally within their rights to not hire someone with a facial tattoo (or piercing) that they believe would be offensive or inappropriate in their workplace or with their customers.
A lot of jobs require employees to be customer-facing and on client sites. Although tattoos and body piercings are becoming more mainstream, there are still many traditional workplaces that favor a more conservative look.
In fact, it’s very common for employers to have a dress code policy that may ban visible tattoos and piercings. Many employers also have policies that require employees to totally remove body piercings while in the office or cover tattoos with clothing and/or makeup.
There are a number of protected classes when it comes to employment law. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against candidates based on age, gender, disability, national origin, pregnancy and a number of other categories.
However, there are no current laws that prohibit discrimination against people with visible tattoos, body piercings, unnatural hair colors, unique hairstyles, and so on. There have been some grassroots efforts to make body art and body modification protected classes, but those efforts have not been successful.
While it may not be fair to discriminate against a tattooed or pierced person, it does happen.
In recent years, the number of people with tattoos and body piercings has increased significantly and we may see employers relax their standards in the future, but we’re not there yet. If you have tattoos and piercings and you feel they are an important part of your personality, make sure you find a workplace that’s accepting of them.
This post was originally published on an earlier date.
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