Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Body Modification Discrimination in the Workplace: Reasons for and Actions to Take against

Tattoos and body piercings are becoming more popular with time. As this occurs many young people are faced with more challenges in the workplace. Different workplaces have different reasons for discriminating against them. People with tattoos and body piercings do not have to tolerate this workplace discrimination however; they can do something about it.

Discrimination in the workplace although not admitted is very common. Even though workplaces say that race, sex, and religion do not play a factor in getting hired, they do. Many bosses do not admit it, but they judge people a lot by their looks, beliefs, and habits. If the employer is racist he will easily overlook a person of another ethnicity. If the employer is an atheist, he may overlook someone with strong religious beliefs. When it comes to a job like construction they might not hire a woman because they think that they cannot work as well as a man can. I have witnessed workplace discrimination in my own job when it comes to appearances. My boss would not hire people based on how they looked when they were interviewed.

Religion is a key factor in a lot of workplace discrimination. Many religions are against any form of body modification. Hazen and Syrdahl believe this is the chief reason for workplace discrimination. Many businesses are against these body modifications because they can hurt their “family-friendly” reputation. Although many court cases involving discrimination in the workplace are won by the business when it comes to expression of religion through tattoos and body piercings it is not always that easy. Individual’s religious beliefs whether it involves tattoos and body piercings are protected by the law to be freely expressed as long as it does not offend many people. Both Hazen and Syrdahl are experienced lawyers who have dealt with many cases involving workplace discrimination (Hazen and Syrdahl). I grew up in a very strict Christian family. They taught me to view tattoos and body piercings as impure and unholy.  As I grew older and was able to think more for myself, my viewpoint on this issue changed.

There is also a certain image that comes to mind when people think about tattoos and body piercings. Many groups and organizations may not let themselves be affiliated with a workplace that allows tattoos and body piercings on their employees, and this would hurt their business (Totten, Lipscomb, and Jones). Many people believe that tattoos and body piercings should not be allowed in the workplace because people with these are thought to be criminal and weird. Most of the time they are just normal people who are trying to express themselves and make themselves unique and are not criminals. Many people believe it goes against God to have a tattoo or body piercing because we are supposed to be happy with the way our body is. People change their bodies in many ways that are acceptable so why should tattoos and piercings be unacceptable?

Many other sorts of body modifications are acceptable in the workplace so why is there such a controversy over tattoos and body piercings. I do not think that having a tattoo or body piercing should exclude you from getting a job when things like breast implants do not. Both things change your body in a   way deemed unacceptable to many so why is one acceptable in the workplace and the other not. I think that it would be valuable to the employers and owners of companies to be able to hire whoever is the most qualified for the job no matter what they look like. What you look like on the outside has no affect on how your brain works and how qualified you are for a job.

I have encountered discrimination in my workplace concerning tattoos and body piercings. Even though both of my tattoos are covered by my uniform the owner of the company where I work was not happy that I had tattoos. My piercings are also either covered up or on my ear which is acceptable. I had been planning on getting my nose pierced, but I was unable to do this without losing my job.

People who are pursuing a job in a workplace where they know tattoos and piercings are not very accepted should consider this before making the decision to get them. Someone looking to be a lawyer, doctor, nurse, teacher, and many other occupations would have a very difficult time getting a job if they were covered in tattoos and piercings. Icon explains that you are more likely to receive criticism in a field where you are interacting with people every day (Icon). Different workplaces with different environments will have different standards of what is acceptable or not when it comes to tattoos and body piercings.

The workplaces have certain standards that apply to everyone that works there which may include no visible tattoos and facial piercings. The standards themselves have most likely been the same for many years. But should theses standards change with the time.  “Despite individual freedom of self-expression, employers have the right to prohibit or limit employee tattoos and body piercings in the workplace” (Rakowski). When you work for someone they can essentially control the way you dress while you are at the workplace. If you do not follow the dress policy at your workplace, you can be fired.

What would happen if the employer and the potential employee banded together to try and find a solution to the problem. Possible solutions could be to wear long sleeves, use makeup to cover up some, and wear clear jewelry. A limit on the number of visible tattoos and body piercings allowed is another solution which is being followed by some workplaces.  Another position is not to allow anything on the face and neck and any offensive tattoos. This is also done in many workplaces. They could also petition the owner for a change in the standards. This could help make it more acceptable. It would help the employers to choose from the best and not have to eliminate people because of tattoos and body piercings. It would also help people with tattoos and body piercings to get a good job.

Many problems arise when workplaces do not have clear guidelines about what is and what is not acceptable in the workplace. Hazen and Syrdahl explain that it can lead to complicated court cases involving different forms of discrimination. They say how the amount of battles about appearances is rising as our culture changes.  Employers need to come up with a clear dress code on what is acceptable or not so that they do not break the law by enforcing their rules (Hazen and Syrdahl).

Most employees want to be able to be themselves. “Employees generally do not like to be told what to wear, how to wear their hair, or how to express themselves; yet employers continue to try to manage their employees’ appearance” (Hazen and Syrdahl). When employers try to tell them to take out or cover up their body art they can become deeply offended because they see their body art as a part of themselves.

 Tattoos and body piercings have become more acceptable than they have in the past. In the past they were viewed by many people as completely evil and sinful. In the future I believe that tattoos and body piercings will become more and more acceptable. The cause of this popularity in my opinion is that many people want to show their individuality and uniqueness. Many people also tend to get more because of the feeling you get during and after getting them.  I believe workplaces will have to learn to accept them in order to have more employees and good employees since many people have them in this time.

Totten, Lipscomb, and Jones surveyed many college students of different ages and backgrounds from across the United States. They surveyed people with many tattoos and body piercings, with one or a few tattoos and body piercings, and with no tattoos and body piercings. By using a variety of different people who were also similar in that they were business majors, they were able to get a more accurate poll of the people. They also asked questions about the attractiveness of people with tattoos and body piercings to see if that had any effect on the outcome. They wanted to see if the majority of new businessmen would judge tattoos and body piercings as much as people in the past did. It looked to see if the new generation still viewed body art in a negative light. The results were that most did not view it negatively. Some even had positive things to say about them, but most realized that society still judges people with tattoos and body piercings negatively (Totten, Lipscomb, and Jones).

If you are considering getting a tattoo or body piercing or more tattoos and body piercings, you must be willing to face discrimination. Even though they are getting more popular there will always be some discrimination. You must consider the reasons for getting it and compare it to the reasons for not getting it. Tattoos can be faded and possible removed completely, but this involves lots of pain. Piercings are removable, but they will leave a scar.  This decision is one that you will have to live with for the rest of your life.

Tattoos and body piercings are a growing trend and businesses will have to adapt to this increase. People with tattoos and body piercings should not just wait around until there is a change made in the standards. They should actively pursue a change to be made, but they need to be willing to compromise. Nothing will ever get accomplished by waiting for it to happen. YOU MUST ACT!!

Works Cited

Hazen, Laura and Syrdahl, Jenna. “Dress Codes and Appearance Policies: What Not To Wear at Work.” The Colorado Lawyer. September 2010.

Totten, Jeff; Lipscomb, Thomas; and Jones, Michael. “Attitudes Toward and Stereotypes of Persons with Body Art: Implications for Marketing Management.” Academy of Marketing Journal, Volume 13 November 2, 2009.

Rakowski, Ronald. “Tattoo and Body Piercing Exposure at Work: Be Careful!” October 8, 2010.          careful-a294841

Icon, Erica. “Tattoos and Piercings in the Workplace” Working World no publication date