Friday, January 10, 2014

Cleaning Out the Inbox: Supporting Tattoos and Piercings at Work

A lot has been written about whether employers can impose their corporate values on their employees' lifestyle choices. I'm certainly not an expert in the field, but I tend to concur - an employer's right to impose their beliefs about your tattoos and piercings is greater than your individual right to have them.

This doesn't mean, however, that people don't work tirelessly to try and change those corporate notions that body modification, whether through tattoos or piercings, do not make someone unfit for work.

I was e-mailed last month about the Support Tattoos and Piercings at Work page, along with this blurb:
"They started their page a little while ago because their friend was let go from her job for having tattoos & piercings. She always had the tattoos & piercings, but because of customer complaints she was asked to remove them or leave her job by the end of the month. Her friends started the Facebook group & paid for Facebook ads to quickly grow it. It quickly gathered friends and random people together to support her. They planned a specific date to have everyone email her boss saying they supported businesses that hired employees with tattoos & piercings.  When they did this it was the same night as a major snowstorm. So many people emailed in that it temporarily shut down her work's email system! She got her job back & now they feature fans who have tattoos/piercings and what they do for a living. I helped write one of the emails. They're also on instagram . Thought it might be a cool blog story."
I see it both ways - if I am a company and I worry that my employee's appearance might impact the bottom line, it is within my right to have them change their appearance. A lot of Starbucks employees cover up their ink for this very reason. This is not to say you don't have a right to tattoos and piercings. Often, however, you have to choose which is more important to you - your job or your nose ring. Similarly, you can't work for a company with one public persona and think you can keep your job, even if you exercise your right to free speech and spout off about things diametrically opposed to your employer's corporate values.

Nonetheless, I would venture to say that tattoo acceptance in the workplace is gaining ground. Whether it be the ongoing evolution of our society, or because of grass-roots and social media efforts (or both), the face of the American workforce is changing.

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