By: Bri Cash
Do you have tattoos? Odds are, surprisingly, probably not. Only 14% percent of the United States population have tattoos. However, the odds for people between eighteen and thirty having tattoos are significantly higher, around 40%. This number is still not the majority of the population, but it is high, especially for the age group of people graduating from college and looking for a job. This poses the question: are tattoos a death sentence in the workplace?
Many older people would say yes, but those of us who are tattooed are fighting against the discrimination. Many places are becoming much more tolerant of tattoos and facial piercing. It all depends on what field you’re going into. As I put myself through college, I have had two jobs. One has been tolerant of my tattoos and piercing and one has not.
The day I turned eighteen, I demanded that my dad take me to a tattoo parlor. At the time, I didn’t know the consequences of my action; I just knew I wanted body art. Soon afterward, I had a job interview. They looked me up and down and found nothing to prevent them from hiring me. However, with my second tattoo, I discovered how unacceptable it was to my boss. She told me I had to wear close-toed shoes and socks to cover the tattoo on my foot. This was in a fast food establishment where I had a counter between me and the public. We also fought over my desire to have a facial piercing. My job was threatened if I ever came to work with a visible piercing. This was in 2010.
In 2013, I got a job as a server. I feared the worst as I already had three tattoos and a facial piercing. However, for my interview I presented myself with tattoos covered and piercing absent. I cautiously asked the question: what is your policy on tattoos and piercing? To my surprise, she responded with acceptance of my body modifications, though in a reluctant way. I could wear my lip ring as long as it was small, and, as long as my tattoos weren’t offensive, I could show them. At the time, none of my tattoos were visible, but, now, five months later, I have two very visible tattoos, and customers and coworkers are surprisingly accepting. In fact, I have gotten two $20 tips due to my being tattooed and breaking the stereotype.
However, there are those that are still against visible tattoos. Not too long ago, an older couple who had been sat in my section vehemently requested another server because of the fact that I had a visible tattoo on my arm and a small jewel in my lip. It didn’t hurt my feelings. I know the stigma attached to tattoos and piercings. This has to be part of your decision when getting a tattoo. What is more important: getting the tattoo you want and forfeiting a job or having a place to work?
As much as I support tattoo acceptance in the workplace, I understand the need for regulating it. If you work with children and you are covered in images of skulls and dark things, you are infringing upon parents’ rights to censor what their child sees. If you work in a factory or behind the scenes, why not have visible tattoos? Body modifications do not hinder your ability to perform required tasks, regardless of the field you are entering; however, it does affect how people view you and your ability to do the job required of you. As a tattooed person, I beg for acceptance, but as a member of the workforce, I understand the decision to deny it.
So is having tattoos a death sentence in the workplace? Not anymore. Enough of the population is tattooed that this will one day cease to be a problem, but you have to be accepting of the fact that not everyone will be okay with viewing your personal decision every time they enter an establishment. Therefore, companies reserve the right to ask an employee to cover their artwork.