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We Should not Discriminate Tattoos and Body Piercing in The Workplace

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This paper uses four articles and two books to help talk about the discrimination against tattoos and piercings in the work-place. It will talk about the ethics and discrimination laws in the work-place. It also includes a study that was done about stigma against tattoos. That study had questions to see how tattooed and non-tattooed individuals thought about people with tattoos. This paper also includes court cases people have tried against the discrimination of tattoos and piercings in the work-place. This paper also talks about how social workers are trying to change their dress code in their work-place to help promote the richly diverse which is who they represent and help in their line of work. It is also to help show that with less discrimination in the work-place, we could start a step in eliminating discrimination and associations of stereotypes all around.

A lot of Americans feel they are constantly being discriminated, judged, and even stereotyped about having tattoos and piercings. They feel that way even more so in a work environment. Most businesses have strict rules and policies against tattoos and piercings. Most people feel suffocated and unable to have a personal life due to their companies’ rules. Everybody would like to go around and feel that they are not being judged or discriminated against. Someone always has something to say about something or somebody. Wouldn’t it be nice to make a step forward for people in the work-place who feel like they are stuck to conform instead of expressing themselves? People with tattoos and piercings should be allowed to freely show their tattoos and piercings in the work-place without discrimination.

Every work-place has its own dress code and ethics rules, but there are certain guidelines they have to follow. When we get jobs, we all get handbooks and manuals saying what they expect. In all jobs, we are required to follow a dress code. Fleischer (2004) states, “An employer may generally impose a dress code or grooming code on employees, so long as doing so has a legitimate business reason and so long as the code is not discriminatory on the basis or gender, race, religion, or other protected criteria.” Ethics of the work-place is created to keep private life and work life separate. Businesses use ethics to conform their employees so that they all think and work alike (Gavai 2010). In most jobs, they add in their policy about tattoos and piercings to conform the way they want their business to be run. Some places allow it, some do not, and some have it adjusted to certain positions that can or cannot have it.

There are many things that can be used as discriminatory in a work-place, tattoos and piercings do not apply to discrimination. We all know that employers are not allowed to discriminate against race, color, origin, and religion, but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t being judged. “Even though every one of us suffers from the conscious and unconscious biases and stereotypes, at least during the interview, the interviewers should free themselves from such ‘idols of mind’. (Gavai 2010)” Most people feel they have been judged when an employer sees their tattoos or piercings. It is natural for our brain to judge someone and put them in a stereotype, but businesses are supposed to be hiring due to our experience and knowledge of the job. “The process of screening, testing, and interviewing the candidates should be fair, impartial, objective, valid, and reliable. (Gavai 2010)” This means they should focus on quality and skills of potential employer and sees if they are fit for the job.

Tattoos and piercings have been around for a very long time. It is becoming more and more popular as years come and go. “A 2007 Harris Poll reported that over 40% of Americans ages 25-40 had at least one tattoo, as compared to 3% 20 years ago, and 0.5% 50 years ago. (Martin, Dula 2010)” That is a significant increase of percentages in just 20 years! Even though there is a rise in popularity in tattoos and piercings, there are still people who dislike tattoos and piercings and will put others in a stereotype. In some people’s opinions, they believe that there would be more than just 40% if more employers allowed tattoos and piercings.

Stereotypes are a whole new level of discrimination in itself. They are categories of a certain group or thing and it makes it seem like it okay for us to judge a person. In Scovell’s (2010) article, she mentions that blonde, tattooed women from a recent study are perceived as promiscuous. Williams, Thomas, and Christensen (2014) mention that new research shows that prejudice leads to discriminatory effects in the work-place, such as promotions, employment, policies, and practices. Martin and Dula talk about the stereotypes that are towards individuals with tattoos, which include, being unsuccessful in school, coming from a broken home, having an unhappy childhood, rarely attending church, having poor decision-making skills, getting tattoos while under an influence, and being an easy victim to peer pressure. Most people do fall under a lot of those categories, but not all of them have tattoos. Let’s say that out of 100 people that they all have rarely attended church, but out of the 100 only 80 have tattoos. Because 80 out of the 100 have tattoos, it is considered the reason why they rarely attend church. Stereotyping is discrimination at its finest work.

The Martin Stigma Against Tattoo Survey (MSATS) is a study that was done about the social stigma against tattoos. It was created so that it could show the attitude one might have towards a tattooed individual. Along with this study, they did a Big Five Personality Measure, which is a survey about the personalities: Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. In this study, Martin and Dula (2014) found that there is a wide range of stigma against tattoos. This study had tattooed and non-tattooed individuals so that it wasn’t biased. They were asked a variety of questions about people who have tattoos. Some of the questions were: People that have visible tattoos should not be taken seriously, People who commit crimes are more likely to have tattoos, People that get tattoos are more likely to have a mental illness, and more (Martin, Dula 2014). Of course, the non-tattooed individuals rated higher in the scores in stigma against tattoos. It is quite disturbing that non-tattooed individuals think so lowly of people with tattoos. This study had proven that there is a lot of discrimination against tattoos.

A lot of people have tried to address the discrimination against tattoos through court. In the article Employers May Regulate Body Art on Their Employees by Louis Pechman (2005), he discusses the cases that have been tried against the discrimination of tattoos and piercings in the work-place. In one case that was tried was about an employer asking an employee to remove a piercing, she refused because it was against her religion. She was a part of the Church of Body Modification, and according to the law the dress code is permissible under federal and state discrimination laws as long as it is enforced on an equal basis (Pechman 2005). Since it is her religion to embrace body modification the employer cannot legally make her do anything about her piercing. In another case, a woman sued her employer for gender discrimination and retaliation. Apparently, her employer asked her to cover her heart tattoo or she was to be fired, but the employer did not ask a male coworker to cover up his Navy tattoo. The company was afraid the customers might think she was a prostitute, from a broken home, or on drugs, but a tattoo on a man was considered to mean he was a hero (Pechman 2005). There are more cases like these then we all like to think, but not all are successful like these. If employers allowed body modifications in there company, than they wouldn’t have to deal with court cases like these.

Some social workers have brought to the attention to their employers about the rising popularity in individuals with tattoos and piercings. “They frequently add that, from their perspectives, policies requiring such modifications to be covered are outdated and perhaps inconsistent with social work’s own core values” (Williams, Thomas, Christensen 2014). The outdated and inconsistent dress code policies against tattoos and piercings go further than just the social workers perspectives. Most employees believe that we should just allow body modification despite of customer’s responses. “Although it remains important for workers to try to be sensitive to the perceptions of others who personally may not like such modifications, it is also important that expectations of professional appearance are sufficiently flexible to avoid contradicting core values pertaining to human diversity, cultural competence, and empowerment” (Williams, Thomas, Christensen 2014). Social work deals with a lot of diversity in the world and a lot of people believe that if they deal with the diverse than so should the customers.

In every single job that individuals have they deal with a diverse amount of people. Just because we don’t like something about that person or something about them seems offensive, we can’t turn them away. “We should not exclude people with knowledge and ability merely because they wear a mark on their arms, neck or face” (Scovell 2010). If the role was reversed and employees were allowed to discriminate on their customers for their tattoos most people would probably not be able to purchase things or see the doctor for health problems. Scovell (2010) discusses about how patients represent the richly diverse of the population and how the nursing community does as well, but people can’t tell because the nursing community is not permitted to have modifications. “Failure to tolerate difference, or allow for people having lived different lives, does not give confidence in the ability to give non-prejudiced care” (Scovell 2010).

A majority of people have changed who they are just so that they are able to have a job or just too even get a job. Kaufman (2013) tells us that Ms. Thomas wore a cardigan to her interview preemptively and that it is not in her usual daily wear. Due to her job, she wears them every day to hide her tattoos and was grateful that human resources didn’t do a body check on her when she got the job. Another woman, who wore clothing that could show her tattoos, said that she would have multiple interviews and then somehow the position would go away. She greatly wondered if her tattoos were the reason she wasn’t landing any jobs. She tested that theory by wearing clothing to cover up her tattoos and now has an intern job, but was told that her tattoos would be of conflict if she wanted a full-time position (Kaufman 2013). One man talks about how he feels as if there are two sides to him, corporate Robert and rock n’ roll Robert (Kaufman 2013). He is covered in tattoos and is covered completely when he works, but when he gets home he lets it all show and thinks to himself if they only knew what I looked like under all this (Kaufman 2013).

Resolving this conflict of discrimination against tattoos and piercings could save companies lawsuits and would reduce the stigma against tattoos and piercings. If it became normal for someone to see successful people with tattoos it would help lower the stereotypes people have against people with body modifications. “Allowing the general public to decide how their nurses should look is a dangerous path. It is a short step from not liking a tattoo on a nurse’s arm to not liking the colour of their skin” (Scovell 2010). This message doesn’t just go towards nurses, but to every job out there. Nobody should be allowed to determine what someone can do with their own body. By allowing restrictions to employees we are one step closer to going back to segregation with growing rules against tattoos and piercings.

Having tattoos is nothing more than color and design on the skin and piercings are nothing more than an appendage. To base a judgement on someone because of their body modification is ludicrous and a setback to a country that is supposed to allow freedom. “Professionalism is not encapsulated in how we look, but in our knowledge, behaviour, and attitudes” (Scovell 2010). Character, knowledge, and personality are more than skin deep. A lot of people want to be accepted for their differences, but want to complain on other individuals differences. Instead of creating more prejudice in this world, we could start reducing it by allowing tattoos and piercings in the work-place. Many years ago people fought for their right to not be judged based on the color of their skin. Even though it still happens to this day, they are allowed to work without discrimination. It seems as if it switched from the color of someone’s skin to the color on their skin, it is still the same discrimination.

Allowing individuals to freely show their tattoos and piercings could reduce discrimination more in the work-place. To live in a world where there is no professional discrimination would be ideal. We all know that there will always be discrimination because someone is different and they just don’t like something about someone, but to see none in the work-place would be a great first step. To see a surgeon who is covered in tattoos be the most successful surgeon in their line of work would help society see that he/she is not in a gang, unsuccessful in school, on drugs, or etc. Or maybe even teacher, who is also covered in tattoos, teach your child to be the best they are in school and spark a light in them to want to be more, would be a great role model for people. It’s about time we start making opinions of people based on their character, knowledge, and skill instead of their tattoos and piercings on their body.

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We Should Not Discriminate Tattoos and Body Piercing in the Workplace. (2018, Jun 08). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from
“We Should Not Discriminate Tattoos and Body Piercing in the Workplace.” GradesFixer, 08 Jun. 2018,
We Should Not Discriminate Tattoos and Body Piercing in the Workplace. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Mar. 2023].
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