Tattoo Discrimination In and Out of the Workplace

By | December 31, 2013

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The popularity of tattoos has increased significantly over the last few decades. More and more people are proudly getting tattoos without thinking about the problems associated with having tattoos. Despite the growing popularity of tattoos, many people still view those with tattoos as being thugs or criminals. This can cause many problems both in and out of the work place.

When the art of tattoos arose nearly 12,000 years ago, they were meant to mark the skin as a sign of social status, to ward off illness, and transitioning into adulthood.

In the 1800s tattoos became popular with those serving in the military, and then among the motorcycle riders, hippies, and youths in the 1900s.

Increasing Popularity of Tattoos

In 2006, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology did a study and found that 24% of Americans aged 18 – 50 have tattoos. That number has surely risen over the past four years as tattoos become commonly seen on rock stars and actors/actresses. reported that “tattoos” has been the number 1 top searched beauty word since the year 2003, however the stigma that tattoos received in the past is still familiar in the year 2010 despite the rising popularity.

Tattoo Discrimination

People with numerous tattoos may be treated differently when out in the public eye. They may be stared at or not taken seriously. They may feel as if they need to cover up their tattoos in order to be treated fairly.

Unfortunately, there are no laws regarding tattoo discrimination, yet. The employment laws only cover discrimination against race, age, sex, or religion. There is nothing in the law books regarding discrimination against those people who have tattoos.

In 2007, a man named Gilbert Carrillo was denied housing at an apartment complex due to his tattoos. The owner of the complex stated that he does not accept anyone having tattoos on their face, neck, hands, or lower arms. Unfortunately, the equal housing laws do not cover tattoo discrimination either, therefore the owner has every right to decide whether or not to allow tenants with visible tattoos.

Many tattooed people are even being left out of work due to discrimination by employers. There have been instances of individuals being highly qualified for a job, passing all requirements, but being turned down for the job based solely on their tattoos. Many companies have policies in place regarding tattoos. Some may not permit any visible tattoos at all in the work place, while others may put a ban on only vulgar or offensive tattoos.

Walmart, Disney World, and Seaworld Orlando all have policies put in place regarding visible tattoos. Disney allows employees to cover their tattoos with make up, however they do not allow any kind of large tattoos on any employee working for them. Walmart allows visible tattoos unless they are of an offensive nature.

Many companies are becoming open minded about hiring people with tattoos. Bank of America claims that having a tattoo is not a deciding factor when offering someone a job with their company. They will hire the right person for the job regardless of any tattoos. Other businesses that allow tattoos include Borders Book Store, Ford Motor Company, Whole Food Markets, and Wahoos. These business all believe that tattoos are not a deciding factor to hire someone if that person has the skills to do the job.

Religion is one way that people can use to try to get an employer to excuse their tattoo. An employer may not discriminate against someone who has a religious tattoo, however the employer must be able to prove that the tattoo is of a religious nature.

Tattoo discrimination still proves to prevail in this day and age. In 2009, Joel Madden from the band Good Charlotte was told that he could not get onto an airplane unless he covered up his arms that were covered with tattoos. He was made to put on a hooded sweatshirt to cover up them up. Despite what happened, British Airways claims that the employee should not have made him cover up his tattoos and that they do not have a policy put in place regarding tattoos.

Many people are fighting for laws banning tattoo discrimination, however the argument against them is that tattoos are a choice, while race and age is not.

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