Saturday, February 16, 2013
Does having visible tattoos say anything about a person's ability to perform the job?
Throughout history, tattoos have had varied purposes as art, cosmetic, spiritual, and fraternal/military. Not only those of the counter culture tattoo their bodies. Life magazine estimated in 1936 that 6% of the American population had tattoos. According to a 2006 Pew Research Center survey, 36% of those ages 18 to 25 had a least one tattoo. The US Department of Labor, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey 2010, lists 18 to 25 year olds as making up nearly 40% of the labor force. Employers are bound to encounter a job candidate who has a visible tattoo.
When making hiring decisions employers have to be careful not to exclude applicants because of the way they look or for religious reasons. Employers may have dress codes and policies against visible tattoos, but even established policies can be challenged if the applicant's appearance has no bearing on their qualifications. With regard to religious tattoos, the applicant/employee may have exposed tattoos to show the commitment to their faith or a rite of passage. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires “employers to make reasonable accommodations to sincerely held religious beliefs unless it would cause undue hardship to the business”.
Generally, laws will support the employer who has policies that require that the employee represent the company image. What if there is a highly qualified applicant that has no interaction with the public? Employers have to consider the applicant’s qualifications, job description, location of the tattoo, and the company's policies when hiring. While facial tattoos may not be appropriate for front line employees, the employer may be more receptive for the behind the scenes employee.
When an employer has ambiguous policies towards tattoo location and attempts to define appropriateness they could open themselves to litigation. Company policies have to be clear. Permitting "non-offensive" or "discreet" tattoos crosses the line into interpretation. Everyone's definition of "offensive" is different. Is the tattoo design or location offensive? What's not offensive today may be offensive to an employee hired at a later time.
As with all company hiring policies, employers have to ensure they are not denying a specific group the opportunity for employment. Employers have to remove their personal biases to protect the company and hire the best possible candidate.
How do you feel? Does having visible tattoos say anything about a person's ability to perform the job?