Tattoo you? Not at Starbucks

For most employers, a job candidate sporting a small visible tattoo would not be a deal-breaker.

After all, 36% of U.S. adults ages 18-25 have at least one tattoo, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The ink is a bit heavier on the U.S. population ages 26-40, where 40% have at least one tattoo.

Tattoos, visible or not, are trendy and aren’t raising the eyebrows the way they once did. Employees who wear them—proudly displayed or deep under clothing—are no less productive, engaged, reliable, friendly, honest or intelligent as those who don’t.

However, not all employers are fond of them.

Starbucks is among them.

The king of cappuccinos just recently gave one of its baristas an ultimatum: Within 30 days, remove your tattoo or resign.

The barista, who serves customers at a Starbucks shop in Troy, Michigan, said she used makeup to hide the tattoo—a heart the size of penny at the foot of her thumb—for the five years she worked there.

But apparently, management saw through the cover-up.

Starbucks is well within its right to adopt a policy addressing tattoos, piercings and other personal appearance issues as long as it doesn’t unlawfully discriminate against one protected group (age, race, religion, sex, etc.).

The company said its policy bars baristas from sporting visible tattoos, which means an employee could conceal the art with long sleeves, a Band-Aid, a scarf, or whatever. Starbucks doesn’t want its customers dealing with tattooed employees.

“This is part of our dress code policy and is discussed with our candidates during the interview process,” Starbucks said in a statement. In other words, Starbucks gives job candidates fair warning on its stance on appearance before offering them jobs.

So a potentially hard-working, dedicated employee with an armful of art may not even apply.

Two questions: Is a small tattoo worn by a male or female employee really chasing away today’s customers? Or is a no-tattoo policy chasing away what could be good employees?