You’ve got an advanced college degree with a flair for dealing with the public, a few years of job experience and a reasonably impressive resume. None of the folks up for the same work have remotely your success and experience… but you have tattoos that are visible even when fully suited. Gonna get the job? Depends. The military has some pretty strict rules about tattoos that show when you are in uniform with an open collar: “Air Force Instruction 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance, states, ‘Excessive tattoos and brands will not be exposed or visible while in uniform.’ Excessive is defined as any tattoo/brands exceeding one-quarter of the exposed body part and those above the collarbone when wearing an open collar uniform.” Jobs.Aol.com (April 27th). And there are pockets of the job market that are downright hostile.
Some companies won’t let you work in a job that deals with the general public if you’re obviously marked. Advertising agencies might think it’s cool, and people who have to connect with inner city youths, people on the wrong side of the law, etc. actually might find a tattoo an advantage in making the necessary connections. But if you think a tattoo is a right of free speech that companies have to respect, think again. The First Amendment doesn’t protect you; “the law has often sided with corporations that don't approve of them. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers are allowed to impose dress codes and appearance policies as long as they do not discriminate or hinder a person's race, color, religion, age, national origin, or gender.” Jobs.Aol.com.
Are we just getting used to a change in norms, a differentiation that simply is an intergenerational dispute? Or is this a permanent vector that will sustain since those hired are likely to be tattooless and likely to continue the practice? According to the Academy of Dermatology, in 2006 one in four adults between the ages of 18 through 50 had at least one tattoo, up from 15% in 2000. It’s no longer a badge relegated to the working class. I’m picturing – decades from now – a rebellious teenager, watching his parents flesh laced with aging and spreading bluish marks, blurring with age, laughing at these misspent marks of long-ago, equally rebellious youth. Will these signatures simply date the folks who have marked their past with symbols that linger decades beyond their time? Or will this simply be the tribal norm going forward.
Tattoos are a whole harder to remove than they are to get, plus there are restrictions about getting too much sun, etc. in the spot where the tattoos were removed. Got the wrong love interest on your arm – the number one reason for tattoo removal – well, it’s gotta go! He or she is gone, after all! But it can take multiple passes to remove tattoos, and the more of them there are, the bigger they appear, well, the longer and more painful it takes to get rid of. Expensive. A growing industry, I might add, now maybe a bigger growth sector than administering the tattoo in the first place.
But in the absence of an offensive remark or picture, it’s really difficult to justify having a tattoo as a reason to deny someone a job. Sure if you think you will lose customers, but will you really? Is it fair? How about the quality of the person who has the tattoo? Do you have a tattoo? When if ever do you hide it? How do you feel about that? And if you are an employer, what’s your policy on employees with tattoos… and why? Do tattoos on the opposite sex turn you on or off? And when you see a tattoo, what do you think about the person wearing it? Remember that old “don’t judge a book by its cover” maxim? Believe it?
I’m Peter Dekom, and change serious interests me or haven’t you noticed?