Tattoo Acceptance in the Workplace

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The image of a typical young American worker is changing drastically, and it’s increasingly becoming adorned with ink. A 2006 a study done by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that 24% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 50 are tattooed; that’s almost one out of every four people. This percentage has since grown in the last five years.

As a result, employers are finding the need to update their current dress codes. In some cases, managers are adding new rules to keep body art covered up. However, in other cases, managers are loosening up to attract younger talent.

In 2006, at the Society for Human Resource Management’s Annual Conference and Exposition in Washington, D.C., the challenges employers deal with “unconventional employees” (in terms of grooming and hygiene - tattoos specifically) was discussed. According to court rulings, an employer has the right to present a workforce that is “reasonably professional in appearance.” Therefore, an employer has the right to set grooming and dress policies that protect legitimate business interest. Employers can’t, however, set policies in a discriminatory manner, for example setting rules telling employees to not have, remove, or cover tattoos with no specific reasoning.

For most companies, allowing body art can work in their favor. It attracts young workers that may not feel welcome in more conservative and legal professions and environments. It can give employees a push to do better in their work because they feel better about being themselves. It also won’t limit employers from hiring the best qualified candidate for the job.

The face of the average young American worker is definitely changing. One out of every four of these people has at least one tattoo, they shouldn’t have to fear about being jobless because of it, and employers shouldn’t limit themselves to considering the only three others who don’t.
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