Tattoos And Workplace. Do They Really Mix?
The beauty of a tattoo may be in the eye of the beholder, but what your boss thinks about it could be what really matters.
Ashley Dietz was forced to wear makeup over her tattooed fingers at a retail job and affix bandages at a fast-food job.
“I’ve always had problems because I have visible tattoos,” said Dietz, who now works as general manager at Spider Bite, a tattoo and body-piercing business in Manchester.
As tattoos gain in popularity, more companies are addressing the issue of tattoos in their dress code policies, according to one Manchester attorney.
“I would say in probably the last three to four years, we’ve been doing a lot more in the way of either creating policies or revising policies to include tattoos and piercings and unusual-colored hair,” said Charla Bizios Stevens, chair of the employment law practice group at the McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton, Professional Association.
The Manchester Police Department recently softened its policy prohibiting tattoos visible when wearing a short-sleeve uniform shirt or shorts.
“Generally, the law is an employer can set the standard for a dress code, which could include such things as tattoos, piercings, clothing, whatever you’re wearing in order to set a standard for workplace appearance,” Stevens said. “That’s completely appropriate and legal.”
She said employers have the right to fire workers with tattoos, unless the employee cites a religious exemption. Stevens said she would suggest a company attempt to reach an accommodation with that worker, such as covering up the objectionable tattoo with clothing or makeup or transferring the employee to a less public position.
Stevens also suggested that companies adopt a written policy.
“It’s much easier to have one and you should also communicate with employees about it,” she said.
Jeff McPherson, chief digital officer at SilverTech, said the Manchester tech company doesn’t have a policy on wearing ink.
“You’re talking to a guy who has tattoos,” said McPherson, who once appeared on a television show on tattoos. “I think there’s quite a few here who have them.”
He said the tech world might be a little more forgiving.
“In more ways, it lends itself to a state of creativity,” McPherson said. “We firmly do believe in hiring the right person for the job.”
Several thousand tattoo fans will descend on the three-day tattoo expo at the Radisson in downtown Manchester beginning at 5 p.m. July 24.
Close to 200 artists will attend, the most in the expo’s nine years.
Stevens, the attorney, said people need to think before they get a tattoo.
“What I try to tell people is you’re going to be judged by appearances and are going to be judged by a lot of people not thinking the same way as you are as to what’s acceptable,” she said. “And you have to think long-term and what impression you’re going to make on people in the types of businesses you’re going to want to work at in the future.”
Fidelity Investments employs 5,400 employees in New Hampshire, the vast majority in Merrimack.
“We don’t have an official policy to preclude tattoos for employees, whether they have been in the military or not,” said Cynthia Rizzo, regional communications director for Fidelity Investments. “However, all employees are expected to maintain an appearance that is appropriate for their work location and role,” she said.
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