Tattoos in the Workplace

Tattoos used to be considered part of a counterculture or outside of the norm, but now they are much more socially acceptable and prevalent. In fact, according to a 2017 Statista Survey, four out of 10 American adults aged 18 to 69 have at least one tattoo, and a quarter of those responding reported multiple tattoos.

As companies strive to become more diverse and inclusive, more business owners, leaders, and HR practitioners will find themselves asking whether their policy regarding tattoos is appropriate for today’s employees and job seekers.

Companies should have a written dress code policy that outlines what’s appropriate and what’s not and communicate that policy to their employees. These policies might require employees to cover up tattoos, and Title VII only comes into play if there is discrimination or the need for an accommodation.

Of course, policies will vary depending upon the industry and type of business. While more and more workplaces are accepting of tattoos, employers still have the right to establish personal appearance policies.

However, before you consider having employees cover up any visible tattoos, you might consider if it is really necessary. The tattoos do not reduce an employee’ s ability to think, reason, or problem-solve their way to a successful result.

Also consider if covering the tattoo would be more distracting than the tattoo itself. How would one consider covering a hand or finger tattoo? Would wearing a turtleneck or long sleeves in August make sense?

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to create a dress code policy that helps attract and retain, rather than alienate, talent. Remember, employees want to be able to bring their true or whole selves to work each day. Creating a diverse, inclusive, and flexible environment will undoubtedly lead to better results, for both the employees and the employer.