One of our employees recently returned to the workplace with an arm covered in tattoos. I asked him about it, and he said “others have focused on home improvement, I focused on art. Do you like them?”

I told, “not really” and he just laughed and went to his work station.

Our dress code doesn’t deal with this, but it makes several of our senior managers uncomfortable.

Are we able to ban tattoos?


The question isn’t can you, but do you want to?

Employers may ban tattoos or other visible body art as long as they have a policy that applies to all employees in similar jobs and contains exceptions that accommodate religious beliefs. Employers in conservative industries such as banking often prohibit employees who work directly with customers from sporting obvious tattoos.

Employers who ban tattoos lose access to a large number of potentially talented employees. Forty-seven percent of American millennials have at least one tattoo, more than a third have two and fifteen percent have five or more tattoos.

© 2020, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016, and “Solutions”, (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Send your questions to her at or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.

One thought on “Tattoos are Us

  1. Reality strikes! Tattoos are us. Just not all of us, and not all of us of a certain age. I have to agree with the coworkers who do not find tattoos particularly appealing. But then, I don’t much like purple and neon temporary hair dye, piercings, black bras under white shirts, low v-neck necklines, gangsta’ jeans, and a number of other personal dress choices. Retroactively, I don’t think the employer can decide to make a policy against tattoos. Also, as you point out, such dress and presentation policies need to be consistently applied across the board and need to respect religious beliefs. Thank you, too, for pointing out that, with the current prevalence of tattoos, especially among those entering and present in the workforce, such anti-tattoo policies could be eliminating a number of otherwise well-qualified, positive assets to an organization. A number of large organizations and government employers seem to have gone the road of allowing tattoos, perhaps with some requirements to cover some of them, perhaps being able to prohibit facial or neck tattoos–but not even necessarily prohibiting those. The employers seem to recognize that tattoos are more a part of life at work and off.
    My cynical wondering is when will employers be challenged to include tattoo removal and allergic/auto-immune reactions to tattoo inks and needles in their benefits coverage.

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