Do Tattoos Block Jobs?

man-with-tattoos-smilingDoes your tattoo impact your ability to get a job? Have you had the impression that your tattoo or piercing is not welcome at work? These questions abound as more younger people get permanent body art.

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Whether your place of business accepts permanent body art, or not, varies from company to company. “Open-minded” companies like Whole Foods, Ikea, Big Lots, Best Buy, and Google freely allow their employees to have tattoos and piercings; while many other companies have written policies that ban obvious tattoos, more than two ear piercings, or even long sideburns!

Getting a job at some of these more conservative companies can be tricky, if not impossible. The business world has lagged significantly in their acceptance of permanent body art, especially as it pertains to obvious tattoos and piercings (those on the hands, face and neck). Many companies, including the United States armed forces, the United Parcel Service, and others, ban obvious tattoos, and non-conventional piercings. They feel that they have a right to “project a certain image” and permanent body art doesn’t fit. . . for now. This ‘discrimination’, in one employer’s view, is part of “their prerogative to exercise a personal preference to NOT have customers distracted by body art”.

Many people mistakenly believe that ‘the law’ prohibits employers from discriminating against them based on their personal preferences like tattoos and piercings. Laws prohibit employers from discriminating based on race, sex, age, and handicap, but they are allowed to ban obvious tattoos, multiple piercings, and any other visually non-conforming body art. . . including hair length, elaborate beards and mustaches, and so on.

Military recruiters turn down one applicant after another who have obvious tattoos on their hands, neck and face as well as objectionable tattoos anywhere else on their body. . . obvious or not.

The military, as well as many other security-related government agencies do not allow racist, sexist, or gang-related tattoos anywhere on your body, covered or not. The army is currently considering further tightening the restrictions on tattoos “banning them below the knee or elbow.”

How many black teens know that the tattoo they just got on their neck or hand has banned them from joining the military? With jobs as scarce as they are, can they really afford to cross that option off at such a young age?

As more and more people get tattoos, grow older, and move up in the corporate ranks, the wide-spread acceptance of permanent body art will improve; but for now, a poorly placed tattoo can frequently be an unexpected job-stopper.

greg-hallBy Dr. Greg L. Hall

Gregory L. Hall, MD is a primary care physician practicing in Cleveland, Ohio. He is the author of the middle school health education supplement, “Teens, Tattoos, & Piercings: The health and social impact of permanent body art.”

After graduation from Williams College with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, he attended the Medical College of Ohio, and completed residency in internal medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Hall serves on the teaching faculty at Case Western Reserve University’s College of Medicine and is the Chairman of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health. He also sits on the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, and is Medical Director of Community Outreach at Saint Vincent Charity Medical Center.

Please find a  link to his book here: