Body Art in the Workplace
You walk into an interview, as you sit down, cross your legs and start to admire the new pair of heels you bought specifically for the interview, you notice you forgot to put a Band-Aid aid over the rather large but feminine tattoo that you have on the top of your foot. You uncross your legs and nonchalantly slide your feet under the table, but it is too late! The woman who is sitting across from you interviewing you, who decides the fate of your professional career, has already noticed it. She raises her eye brows and crinkles her nose and quickly compliments your new shoes because she is aware you saw her disgusted facial gesture. You get a very unfriendly vibe throughout the interview and notice she has mentioned what a professional place ABC company is to work and is already insinuating you might not fit in with the culture there.
In the workplace is it ethical to be judged or discriminated against for a tattoo or tattoos you have on your body? What about other forms of body art, such as piercings? Can one make a sound decision on your work ethic and intelligence on appearance alone? In the textbook, Understanding Business Ethics, Stanwick and Stanwick (2009) wrote, “Ethics can be defined as the values an individual uses to interpret whether any particular action or behavior is considered acceptable and appropriate” (p. 2). Business ethics are not much different. In the same textbook Stanwick and Stanwick (2009) state, “Business ethics can be defined as the collective values of a business organization that can be used to evaluate whether the behavior of the collective members of the organization are considered acceptable and appropriate” (p. 3). The difference between ethics and business ethics is if you are evaluating the behavior individually or collectively as a whole organization. Being part of an organization that you do not back their ethical beliefs and culture would make it rather difficult to be a good role model for that company. Problems and Challenges
According to the article “Body of Work” by Rita Pyrillis, figuring out how much ink and piercings, if any, are acceptable to display at work is not only a challenge for the growing number of tattooed and pierced professionals, but also for their employers. Establishing guidelines for body art in the workplace will be even more important as generation Y enters into the workplace (Pyrillis, 2010).
By the year 2014, according to government projections, 36 percent of the U.S. workforce will consist of generation Y employees. Generation Y includes people that were born in 1982. This would be anyone who is currently 30 and under. This is a generation who likes to express their individuality through body art. Pyrillis noted according to a 2010 Pew Research Center study: 12 percent of the 18 to 29-year-olds surveyed have at least one tattoo and 26 percent sport two or more. About 7 percent have six or more tattoos. Generation X is fond of body ink, too. About one third of those between 30 and 45 said they have at least one tattoo. Only 15 percent of baby boomers between 46 and 64 have one. (p. 2)
Regardless of the growing numbers of employees with body art, many companies do not have specific policies addressing body art and are just leaving it up to the discretion of the supervisors and employees. For example, Gundersen Lutheran’s policy HR-210 states, “Personal adornments that are visible, such as tattoos body piercing or hair coloring, which might be considered offensive to the public or co-workers are discouraged and shall be addressed on an individual basis by the departmental manager (2010). This could cause some issues as people do not always have the same beliefs to what is deemed acceptable and appropriate in the workplace.
Employment lawyer, Kevin Troutman, a partner at Fisher & Phillips in Houston, TX has seen a surge in the number of companies seeking his...