I recently got a new tattoo on the back of my neck. When showing my girlfriends I mentioned I was thinking of getting another very tiny one on my wrist. Aware that I am graduating this year and will be on the hunt for a good job they mentioned I might want to make sure that it’s not visible to employers.
While not unheard of, I was still a bit surprised. In 2014 the conversation of tattoos in the workplace is still very apparent, even though 14 per cent of Americans have at least one tattoo, according to the Pew Research Centre. There are six pages listing Toronto tattoo parlours on the yellow pages website alone. Just walking down Yonge Street you’re sure to find more than one.
So why is it still taboo to have a tattoo in the workplace? Should we have to think before we ink? Getting a tattoo is an expression of oneself and it shouldn’t categorize or stereotype those adorned with them. After all, wouldn’t that fall under discrimination? And ultimately, do employers even have the right to prohibit tattoos?
According to a recent labour arbitration between the Ottawa Hospital and Canadian Union of Public Employees in January 2013, the answer is no. The hospital tried to introduce a dress code for unionized employees with one of the listings being that large tattoos were not to be visible during working hours. Objections obviously flared and others ruled it as difficult to enforce. In the end employees won.
However this is just one case, so the question still remains: should we think before we ink? The answer to whether or not tattoos are acceptable in the workplace seems to be all over the map. It depends on the company, position, state/province and what their standard polices are.
According to an article “10 occupations tattoos are are not accepted in the workplace” by examiner.com, jobs that are not accepting of tattoos appear to have some sort of justification for their decision. Government jobs and law firms use their need for professionalism as justification.
Teachers are another great example, as it depends on the school. While most public schools are all right with tattoos they prefer teachers to cover them. However for private schools having tattoos is unacceptable. Colleges and daycares are the most lenient teaching positions when it comes to tattooed employees.
An opposite article on examiner.com “10 occupations tattoos are accepted in the workplace” says since tattoos are a growing trend employers are adjusting their idea of what is deemed acceptable in the workplace. Despite smaller tattoos being allowed in some cases, there’s still the possibility of having to cover them up.
However, many jobs involve interaction with the public, apparently meaning the acceptance of tattoos in the workplace has a lot to do with what is and is not acceptable in society.
Until tattoos stop being associated with gangsters, criminals and freaks it looks like we’ll have to think before we ink. Whether you’re graduating this year and looking to start your career or just looking for a summer job you might want to take your body modifications into consideration. However, I am confident soon we will be able to ink away. After all, taboo beauty and fashion trends from decades before are now no big deal–we can hope in time, the same will apply to body art.