Tattoos and body piercings are becoming increasingly common, especially among younger individuals. While exposed body art has generally been considered taboo in the professional workplace, it has become more accepted in recent years. The type and location of the body art, however, affects whether co-workers and clients even know it exists. It also affects how well it is received in the workplace.
Many employers struggle with providing a workplace that is open and accepting of employees’ personal expression, while also maintaining a high level of professionalism in the public eye. Because of this, it is wise to include a tattoo and piercing policy as part of your employee handbook or dress code. In doing so, you should address if, and when, visible body art is acceptable and whether the policy differs for individuals in certain positions. For example, is visual body art unacceptable for employees in customer-facing roles but acceptable for employees working in the stockroom? Explain the policy’s importance and reaffirm your respect for employees and their right to personal expression.
Tips for Creating and Executing a Tattoo and Body Piercing Policy
- Remain focused on your business and body art’s place within the workplace environment. Do not make generalized judgments about body art or individuals who chose this method of personal expression.
- Think about your key business objectives. Will visible body art inhibit employees from meeting those objectives?
- Consider whether the policy will inhibit employees from feeling accepted by the company.
- Recommend that employees who get new body art consider whether its design or location will affect their job performance.
- Prohibit visible tattoos that are offensive based on gender, race, sexuality or religion, or that have yielded customer complaints.
- If body art becomes distracting, discuss the issue with the employee and try to agree on a reasonable solution; such as covering it up during working hours or moving to a workspace that is less visible to clients.
- Ask that employees thoroughly read the policy when they are hired. Then have them sign it acknowledging that they understand and will comply.
Religious Body Art
Though it is not extremely common, some employees may have a tattoo that is religious in nature and is not supposed to be covered up due to its significance. Respect their religious beliefs and practices by making reasonable accommodations, unless the body art presents unnecessary hardship or offense to others.
If this occurs, discuss the significance of the body art with the employee and work together to come up with a reasonable solution. However, discuss the situation with HR to ensure that you will not be liable for a religious discrimination lawsuit.