Tattoos and Piercings in the Workplace

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Zac Wilson
27 January 2011
English 102
Multiple Positions rough draft
Prohibition of Tattoos and Piercings in the Workplace
A large number of businesses do not allow tattoos that are visible. Many also prohibit piercings, other than single earrings on women. Some industries even take their policies to the extreme of not allowing any tattoos that take up more than 25% of a body part, and if a pre-existing tattoo is too large or obscene, it must be removed (Powers). This even applies if a uniform can easily cover the tattooed area.

A business is allowed to limit or prohibit tattoos, piercings, and other forms of body modification as much as they want as long as it is addressed in the employee handbook, usually in the dress code section. If the business does not mention a tattoo or piercing policy, it is illegal for them to punish or discriminate against an employee with body modifications. The policy also must be enforced uniformly among the employees, or the employee can sue the company (Cole) .

Costco didn’t used to have as strict of a policy on piercings. During that time, an employee named Kimberly Cloutier got her eyebrow pierced. She was then instructed to take the piercing out when she was at work. She refused, and stated that it was against her religion, The Church of Body Modification. The company then changed their policy to prohibit the wearing of eyebrow rings. Cloutier took the case to court, and lost because Costco included their policy in the handbook. Her point about it being against her religion was also invalid because the Church of Body Modification does not require anyone to keep their piercing in at all times (Cole).

A common belief is that tattoos and piercings are perceived as a negative practice, associated with delinquents. For this reason, many businesses limit their employees’ freedom to display their piercings or tattoos. They believe that if customers see tattooed and pierced people working somewhere, they will think they place is of lower quality, and stop coming, causing the store to lose business. The most common policy states that employees must cover their tattoos, and must take out their piercings, with the possible exception of earrings on women.

Different branches of the military take this policy to the extreme. In the Air Force, no member is allowed to have tattoos that will show when wearing a uniform. Even if the tattoos are covered, they are not allowed to exceed 75% of a body part, and may not contain any obscene, offensive, or gang related images. Men are not allowed to wear any piercings, and women are restricted to wearing “one small spherical, conservative, diamond, gold, white pearl, or silver pierced, or clip earring per earlobe and the earring worn in each earlobe must match.” If an individual has a tattoo that does not meet the requirements, they must remove it at their own expense (Powers).

The army is somewhat less strict. Almost any tattoo is acceptable unless it is obscene, offensive, or gang-affiliated. The only body part that is not allowed to be tattooed is anywhere above the collarbone, unless it is on the back of the neck. The army used to have a stricter policy on tattoos, but they changed it because of the growing percentage of the population with tattoos (Leipold).

It seems that most businesses do not want their employees to wear tattoos or piercings because of the negative perception associated it. By law, they are allowed to prohibit it as much as they want, as long at their policy is clearly stated in the handbook.

Many individuals feel that it is a violation of their freedom to be discriminated against for having tattoos or piercings. They believe that they should be allowed to express themselves with their appearance, and no one else should care if someone has tattoos or piercings. Some people even leave their jobs in search of a more accepting workplace. Others refuse to cover up, knowing that there will be...
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