Whether you love ink or not, it’s a part of our society. According to Pew Research, over 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo. That translates to approximately 1 in 5. So chances are your organization and human resources department needs to make a decision about how to handle tattoos in the workplace.
From a legal perspective, there is no law protecting people who have tattoos. Yes, the First Amendment allows for freedom of speech – so people can get tattoos. In addition, there are federal and state laws that protect employees from being terminated or other adverse actions based upon discrimination. But, companies do have the right to discriminate against “optional” appearance traits such as facial hair, body piercings, and tattoos.
For years, organizations have taken a very conservative position when it comes to tattoos in the workplace. With trends and attitudes on tattoos shifting, does it make good business sense to ban tattoos in the workplace? Here are some advantages and disadvantages to consider:
ADVANTAGE: As evidenced by the numbers, tattoos are gaining social acceptance. Talented employees are getting tattoos. Being a tattoo-friendly workplace could help recruitment efforts. Companies like Whole Foods, IKEA, Google, Amazon, and UPS are body art friendly employers.
DISADVANTAGE: Because getting a tattoo is often a personal decision, it’s possible that a person’s ink might be considered provocative, controversial, or offensive to others. Companies would have to handle those situations just like handling an offensive picture, email, etc.
Ultimately, the decision comes down to what’s good for the business: customer perceptions and consumer branding.That doesn’t necessarily mean a restrictive stance. Consult with a human resources professional to include provisions for non-offensive and discreet tattoos. A well-crafted dress code policy could delight employees, create a competitive recruiting advantage and show customers you’re a modern workplace.