Tattoos, once fairly uncommon, now color the arms, legs, backs and faces of more and more people. They are common in workplaces, too, and places such as the National Basketball Association bring the presence of tattoos into the limelight. Are tattoos a protected form of personal expression in the workplace, or can employers require employees to hide or minimize their tattoos?
According to information in usatoday.com, the relevant document when concerning issues such as tattoos is a company’s personal appearance policy. This policy should be written down and available to all employees. Companies have the right to create their own policies for dress code and appearance. In fact, these policies may vary widely among different types of companies (the article uses banks vs. a graphic design firm as examples). Taking it to the extreme limit, a company could require all employees to cover themselves from head to foot. The trend in society is for wider acceptance of tattoos in the workplace. The company policy, though, may not discriminate against a specific employee, and it must make room for religious accommodations.
in 2019, according to the National Law Review, New York State broadened protections for employees when it comes to religious clothing, facial hair or attire. The protections include such religious clothing as turbans, hijabs, yarmulkes and headscarves. It is unclear if this amendment to the New York State Human Rights Law extends to piercings, jewelry or tattoos with religious meaning. Under the expanded law, a discriminatory action occurs when an employer requires an employee to forego wearing religious clothing, unless the employer proves that it is unable to reasonably accommodate this situation without undue hardship.