Even in 2014 when people are decorating their bodies with everything from ear gauges and skin surface piercings to branding and doll-like plastic surgery, tattoos hold negative connotations, especially in the work place. Though America is a place people come to celebrate the differences that are not necessarily appreciated in their native land, such as religion, sexual orientation and political views, there remains a lot of judgment associated with body art and the people who have it. Tattoos are a personal preference, and in no way affect anyone other than the person with said tattoo, however some employers seem to disagree, and potential employees experience a sort of professional persecution that often denies them a fair chance at the job.
Tattoos are common in this day and age, with a recent Pew Research survey showing that, “About 23 percent of Americans today have a tattoo, and 32 percent of people ages 30-45 have at least one.” However it is still a company’s and employer’s prerogative whether or not they want to hire someone, for whatever reason. Although there have been laws put in place that protect applicants from being discriminated against for a myriad of reasons, such as age, gender or religion, tattoos are not yet protected under that umbrella. In fact, some research suggests it is still quite common for a potential employee to be overlooked due to their body art.
It is not always even be the employer’s personal preference for or against tattoos that is increasing the applicant’s chance of professional persecution. It is more likely that it is based on customer or client response to body alterations, and how their perception of a person changes because of them. Even tattoo artists know, and warn clients about, the potential judgment and hindrances in the professional environment often associated with visible tattoos. Seattle tattoo artist Alivia Foley explains in a recent interview, “Tattooing has gone from being counterculture to being something everyone is doing, but societal repercussions are still there, especially with highly visible tattoos on the face, neck or hands.” No doubt employers are quite sensitive to this as it is their job to run a successful business and that often means that pleasing their clientele above hiring whomever they please .
Tattoos have an extensive history and appear to have a bright future. Artistically marking the body is a practice that has been around for thousands of years, with evidence of markings on a recently discovered “Iceman” thought to have been frozen as far back as 5,200 years ago. Even with historical origins such as tattoos have continued to receive bad press as well as quite a bit of backlash against those who sport them. It is still commonly thought by many that tattoos signify a direct link between the person that has them and an “alternative” lifestyle that includes crime, debauchery, drugs and alcohol, and a general foundation of uncleanliness. Debate .org ran a poll asking whether or not people thought people negatively stereotyped tattoos in the U.S. with a resulting 81 percent yes, versus 19 percent no.
These judgments echo what many employers fear their customers will see in a tattooed employee. However, there are industries in which the tattooed employee is not only welcomed but celebrated, such as tattoo artist or shop worker, bartender, performer, musician and military branch member. Tattoos are becoming more accepted and coveted in pop-culture, which often indicates a trend’s potential to successfully cross over to everyday life as well, which may lead to better understanding, less judgment and more respect for personal preference and equal opportunities for employment, even if it means a tattoo, including less persecution, professional or otherwise.
By Heather Everett (Pomper)