Tattoos in the Workplace: Still Taboo?

By Credit Union Association of New York

Tattoos were once regarded as the mark of a rebel, a delinquent or a criminal. They weren’t seen as professional.


Now, however, it seems they’re fairly ubiquitous, especially among impulsive 20 somethings and even older generations. So has the tattoo stigma changed?

According to a Pew Research study, 36 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds and 40 percent of 26- to 40-year-olds have at least one tattoo. Some people are very passionate about their body art, stating that tattoos are a way of expressing themselves.

That could very well be changing, however, as the number of laser tattoo removals rose 32 percent from 2011 to 2012. “Employment reasons” was cited as the main motivation for tattoo removal.

People with tattoos are employed in a variety of industries and positions, from entry level to the executive office. So, what’s an employer to do? Is body art a workplace issue? Does having a visible tattoo say anything about an individual that is relevant to his or her job?

In today’s global marketplace, employers are taking more seriously the need to provide a work environment that welcomes employees from many different backgrounds. The
competition to attract and retain skilled workers has resulted in corporate cultures that strive to demonstrate the value placed on individual and group contributions. And there is increasing attention paid to offering a culture and benefit package that supports a variety of lifestyles. Should someone with a visible tattoo be treated any differently?

Depending on what and where the tattoo is, it may or may not be an issue for credit unions. The laws still tend to support employer dress code/appearance policies in general, and employers retain some flexibility in creating rules that require employees to present themselves in a way that is consistent with the employer’s image.

Credit unions today are being forced to re-examine their rules. So many people have tattoos that it may not be worth it to count anyone out just because they have had ink work done.

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