Can an employer discriminate against you because of your tattoos?

It’s common knowledge that workplace discrimination is widespread despite being illegal. Employers still treat people differently based on their gender, race, nationality, religion and other protected classes.

What is less widely known is that in some cases, discrimination is technically still legal. Or at least there is no specific law against it. One area this is evident is tattoos, piercings and the like. Even though huge amounts of Americans now sport these, some employers still have an aversion to them. Many have policies against them in their dress code.

Can your employer treat you differently because of your body art? Yes and no.

It would be illegal for an employer to tell you to cover up your tattoos or take out your piercing unless they did it to everyone. Or at least everyone else in a similar role to yours.

For example, if you are an airline stewardess, they could tell you and all other stewards to cover up any tattoos, even if they still allow the baggage handlers to display them. Or, if you wait tables, they could tell you and the other customer-facing staff to take out your eyebrow piercing, even if one of the chefs is allowed to keep theirs.

It all comes down to consistency.

If you disagree with your employer, look at how they apply the rules. If you can show that they are being inconsistent, you may have grounds to claim they are discriminating against you. The same could apply if they fire you or refuse to hire you in the first place due to your body art – provided you can show they are not applying the rules consistently.

It’s a tricky area, so consider legal help if you believe an employer has discriminated against you.

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