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Can we address tattoos in our dress code?

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in Human Resources,The HR Specialist Forum

We don't say anywhere that employees can't have tattoos, but our president (we're a bank) wants to implement a policy. Is it OK to put in our dress code that all tattoos must be covered up? Should we even be addressing the subject?—Joni, Utah


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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Dar July 27, 2010 at 2:58 pm

I think you need to be very specific, as I have tatoos that do not show, and some that do, my hummingbird is very out of sight yet my eyeliner is tatooed on and visible to all, it is a New Normal out there so I agree if it is particularly offensive just as a saying might be on someone shirt, each must be dealth with individually.

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Melanie June 10, 2010 at 11:56 am

It stops when employees begin to show some common sense and exhibit some modicom of good taste. Most dress codes already prohibit low rise tops and pants. People who want to work in the corporate world might consider limiting their body art.

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Peg June 8, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Be sure to check state and even county regs. Some more progressive counties do not permit discrimination based upon any physical appearance, including body art/piercings that are visible. FYI.

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C.M. May 20, 2010 at 11:15 am

Our policy is that all visible tatoos need to be covered. We had one employee that actually had her tatoos removed because they were around both her ankles which meant she couldn’t wear any skirts to work. We have another employee who was hired as an executive officer and had tatoos running up and down both arms. He understood that even though he is an executive, he is unable to wear polo shirts to work on casual day, and must always wear long sleeve shirts. It has not been a problem BY telling new employees from the beginning what our policy states gives them the option of covering up or looking for another job elsewhere.

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Annie M. May 19, 2010 at 10:24 am

I agree totally with this person. I am “over middle age” and I love tattoos. I like tasteful ones. But what is tasteful to me, may not be tasteful to others. I got my FIRST tattoo at 29 years old, and my last one at 54 years. I am definitely ready for my next one and I’m going on 56 years YOUNG. I say, to each his own, and who are they hurting?

I go to our city hall and the clerks there make me cringe .. but they’re allowed to look that way. I guess it’s tasteful in their opinion!

Live free or die!!

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N.J. May 19, 2010 at 8:54 am

Body art and even piercings is so commonplace in our society that I think the culure shock is just about over. We are hiring people on their skills, qualifications, business knowledge and of course their people skills. The old adage applies… you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. This can open a can of worms… how about low rise tops, or low-rise pants, tight fitting clothes… where does it stop?

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Patricia May 19, 2010 at 8:49 am

I have a different opinion on the matter.

In business school, students are told the reason employees work is to maximize shareholder wealth. Shareholder wealth is ultimately affected by work performance. Therefore, if the presence of tatoos disrupts the employees work performance then address it with the individual as a performance issue. For example, “The presence of _______ is offensive to customers, and therefor we need to request you to cover it up.” To create a blanket policy that bans all visible tattoos is shallow and narrow minded. Younger generations will continue to get tattoos for self expression, not gang affiliations. The trend will be that this expression will become the social norm.

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ROlson May 18, 2010 at 5:20 pm

I have worked in several industries, banking being one and in all the places of employment, it has been stated in the dress code policy that you can’t have visable body art. This is tattoos or otherwise. It’s ignorant to state it’s because people make the connection to prision or gangs. It simply in this day and age reflects the business. Weather it’s a dragon or butterfly the public want to see a nice business have it’s employees look nice. They are the face of the business and you have to state what you want that to look like. If you have a policy with no body art, then you just have to apply it across the board, unless as stated it’s a documented religious issue. Consistancy is key.

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Linda Kulp May 18, 2010 at 5:02 pm

We have not fully addressed it and there are issues that some of the public may have about seeing tattoos covering much of the visable skin. We’re in the public sector and must consider how our employees appear when they’re working with the public. Some people have said that as long as it is covered up there is no issue. That may be our stance but as of yet, it isn’t. Some young people (maybe even the older ones) object to being told not to have body art. They consider it a freedom of choice. Maybe in time no one will care but right now, there are still many who connect tattoos with gangs and those who have served time in prision. I have heard from a legal workshop that it’s important to have at least a basic policy on the subject.

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Linda May 18, 2010 at 4:00 pm

I have addressed tattoos (and body piercings) in several dress code policies in both for and not for profit companies. It is a concern for a bank where the expectation is probably one of a more formal environment and many employees have direct contact with the customer. Most body art can be covered with clothing but some may require something else such as a bandaid. I have had to turn away candidates who had body art on their neck and face indicative of previous affiliation with gangs. You may encounter a religious accommodation along the way and may have to address that issue as it comes up.

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