Tattoos in the Workplace: More Acceptable or Still Taboo?

Written by Jennifer Swarthout

“Tattoos are unprofessional.”

In The United States and a majority of Europe, tattoos and piercings are pulling further away from the unprofessional stereotype. In fact, most hiring adults define professionalism with values, including how you treat other people, work ethic, and personal character.

Some companies fear that allowing employees to have uncovered tats will lead to a decrease in sales. This simply is not the case. A Fox News survey found that 96 percent of Americans claimed tattoos wouldn’t stop them from dealing with a business as long they received fair pricing and quality customer service.

A majority of shoppers claimed that they would change their business dealings if they believed the staff was being discriminated against.  61 percent of American adults have a tattoo or piercing, according to STAPAW.  It stands to reason that patrons  may choose to frequent companies that allow staff the freedom to show off their own tattoos or piercings.

“Employers  will instantly see you as ‘wild’ or ‘fun’ rather than a long-term prospect”.

Tattoo policies change with industry, but a vast majority of companies are beginning to stress commitments to diversity and inclusion. Laidback policies for creative or blue-collar jobs aren’t hard to picture, but corporate, academic, and medical professions are beginning to follow suit. It appears that companies are starting to realize that if they don’t hire the best candidate for the job, the competition will.

In the year 2015, an astounding 520,600 companies changed their dress codes to allow for visible tattoos in the workplace. This change in company policy, allowing staff to have visible ink and/or piercings, gives managers freedom and flexibility in hiring options, better public relations, and higher retention rates.

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Painting by Jennifer Swarthout

Is it discrimination?

In the United States, tattoos are regarded as a form of expression and protected by the U.S. Constitution. This does not mean that a company has to hire you. Tattoos are not currently protected by any law, in any state, where employment is considered.

A company passing over you for hire is legally within their rights to do so. states that 37 percent of managers feel that tattoos limit career potential. That being said, in recent surveys, only 4 percent of tattooed individuals actually claim to have faced discrimination in their current job. The past couple of decades has seen shifts in tattoo acceptance. Having tattoos no longer impedes success in your chosen career.

“You’ll never get a job!”

A study completed at the University of Tampa found that a whopping 86 percent of students with visible ink believed that they would have a more difficult time finding work after graduation. 89 percent said that they consider how their career options will be impacted when deciding on a tattoo location and size.

Although tattoos are accepted more widely than they have been in the past, it would be foolish to kid ourselves into believing that all employers are on board. Something to consider about tattoos in the workplace is that the first wave of younger, more tattoo- tolerant individuals are becoming supervisors. In theory, as millennials advance in their careers, “the hiring bias against tattoos could begin to decline naturally, and dramatically”.

Employers can, and sometimes do, refuse to hire an individual who has visible tattoos. They may also require that all visible tattoos be covered. It’s always best to scout out prospective employers and their preferences before applying. Getting the job may be as easy as covering your tattoo for the interview.



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Jennifer Swarthout is a professional artist, successfully running her own virtual art studio Jagged Edge Acrylics. She has a tremendous love for learning and excels when researching and writing papers. The three tiny humans that she is raising inspire her to be the best possible version of herself. She wakes up every single day and does what she loves. Artist, writer, and mother all rolled into one perfect work day. It doesn’t get any better than that.




3 thoughts on “Tattoos in the Workplace: More Acceptable or Still Taboo?

  1. These are great facts. I used to worry about employability with ink, too, but like you said, good companies know they need to hire the right person for the job or the competition will.


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