The Tattoo Taboo


My mother is very anti-tattoo. Growing up, she always said “Sierra, your body is a work of art, don’t graffiti it”. So naturally, I decided to get a tattoo when I became an adult (I told my mother I was getting a tattoo while I was getting it). I have a tattoo, about the size of a softball, on the right side of my rib cage. When I went through the process of deciding the coloring, design, and location, I knew that I wanted to have it hidden for when I applied to jobs and internships. I knew it was there, but my employer didn’t need to know.

My brother is tattooed, my grandmother is tattooed, and my friends and I are both are tattooed and pierced. In a world today where tattoos and piercings are more mainstream, are we still seeing discrimination in the workplace against those with tattoos?

According to the History of Tattoos website: 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo.

Interestingly enough, for those who say tattooed people are “uneducated”, 30% of all college graduates in United States have tattoos.

Express yourself. Via

To break down the tattooing further by segmenting generations, an article by Reuters showed that 40% of millennials had at least one tattoo. From that 40%, 70% said that they made sure their tattoos could be covered for a job interview (like me).

We’ve seen the statistics about how many people are tattooed in the United States, so does workplace discrimination of tattooed people really exist? An article by describes how each employer has its own special dress code or appearance policy that requires employees to adhere to those standards. There are several employers that have policies that do not allow visible tattoos, especially in certain industries, like legal, medical, banking, and hospitality. Most employers are becoming more flexible on their tattoo policies due to a changing work environment and diversity, so there is hope for the tattooed workforce.

Most tattoo policies also focus on the tattoo itself. A tattoo with offensive language or designs probably shouldn’t be displayed when talking to customers, but a tattoo like my friend has, her mother’s signature, is innocent and respectful enough. Some people also have tattoos with a religious significance and covering them could bring a possibly religious discrimination lawsuit.

The key to avoiding problems is to have an open discussion. Work together to create a fair and open policy, and never make assumptions about someone’s qualifications based on how they look.

There are many common misconceptions about people with tattoos. Stereotypes of tattooed people are that they are rebellious and irresponsible, that they’re uneducated and cannot get a real job. This is simply not true, as you can see from the above statistics about the number of tattooed people in the workforce. Most people tend to get tattoos of something incredibly meaningful to them, so why should they be punished with a stereotype?

Tattoos and piercings are ways we express ourselves, and we should be able to do that freely without fear of being judged in an interview, in class, or on the street. Thinking about getting a tattoo yourself? Read this article first!


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