Exploring tattoo discrimination


Discrimination makes even the calmest people’s blood boil. We are in the midst of a constant fight to end discrimination – racial discrimination, gender discrimination, and discrimination because of sexual orientation. While many people are upset by the constant recurrence of these in the workplace, many people don’t think about the discrimination tattooed people experience because of their appearance, a form of discrimination that is as bad as any other.

There is a woman from Edmonton who is fighting to make tattoo and body modification discrimination in the work place illegal. I interviewed a 21-year-old university student on his opinions on tattoos and tattoo discrimination in order to gauge what a university students, who is about to enter the working world, opinion of tattoo discrimination is.

How aware would you say you are of people and their tattoos?

Ryan Bosley: I do generally notice them. I mean, I don’t notice little ones but if someone has like a full sleeve or are covered in tattoos then, yes, it definitely gets my attention.

Do you have any tattoos?

RB: Nope I don’t.

Have you ever considered getting a tattoo?

RB: I’ve never been a big fan of tattoos, so I’ve never considered getting one and I probably never will, either.

Would employment concerns deter you from getting a tattoo?

RB: Yes. I don’t think tattoos are professional, so if in the future I ever felt the need to get a tattoo, I still probably wouldn’t because of the possibility that it would impact my job opportunities.

RB: I’m working towards becoming an engineer. My ultimate goal is to, hopefully, work in the automotive or aviation industry.

How would your opinion of a colleague and their workmanship be impacted by their tattoos if they were to have any?

RB: I don’t think that them having a tattoo would affect the way I see them or their work. It all depends on their attitude and work ethic. If they work well and get the job done, then it really wouldn’t make much of a difference.

If it wouldn’t affect your opinion of them, then why should having tattoos impact a person’s employment?

RB: If they don’t have to deal with customers, then I think that it shouldn’t have to affect their job opportunities. I think that in the engineering industry you don’t have to deal with customers that often, but when you do, it is usually is in a business suit, so you would be able to cover up the tattoos. Also, once there is a good relationship between the companies, then it shouldn’t matter about the tattoos. I think that the first impressions are key, so the tattoos could give your company a bad first impression.

Do you think a person’s employment should be impacted by whether or not they have tattoos?

RB: I think that if the job is one where they will have to deal with customers, then the tattoos should be covered up because some customers could be scared off by tattoos. I personally find tattoos distasteful and distracting, and when I go shopping I would rather concentrate on the task at hand and not the tattoos.

If their tattoos cannot be covered, do you think they should be dismissed or never have been hired in the first place?

RB: I think that it really just depends on the job. I don’t think they should be fired but maybe not given tasks that will be with customers, or they should be able to cover the tattoos when they do.

What is your opinion on tattoo discrimination?

RB: I can see how some employers could see tattoos as a deciding factor on a position, because it could display a negative image to some customers. If the company is trying to have a certain image, and tattoos don’t fit within that image, then it makes sense for employers not to consider them. I think the company’s image should always be taken into account when hiring someone, and the person hired should be able to fit in easily within the company image.

So if a prospective employee is perfect for a position but has a visible tattoo, it is okay for them to lose the position to to someone who is not as qualified.

RB: I guess it depends on the style of tattoos and whether or not the job description requires them to deal with customers. Say they have skull tattoos or tear drop tattoos on their face, then yes. Those tattoos symbolize criminals and negative emotions, they affect how people view your company. Which could result in loss of customers and, seeing as a company’s goal is generally capital, and customers bring that capital, then loss of customers due to an employee would be an issue.

As a consumer, and client, how is your opinion of a company impacted by the staff having visible tattoos?

RB: I think if the tattoos are covered up, then it is fine. I think tattoos portray a negative image, and are related to crime and biker gangs. Well, not all of them, but I think many people are still believe the stereotypes when it comes to tattooed people.

In your opinion is tattoo discrimination as abhorrent as any other discrimination?

RB: No, I do not think that it is abhorrent. If they are getting discriminated trying to get a job that is in customer service, then it is for the company’s best interest. I don’t really see it as the same as being discriminated against because of race or gender.

Shannen Johnson-Barker

South African stuck in Canada trying to find something interesting about it all. Potential journalist, if all goes well that is. Enjoy exploratory adventures through journalism and searching for unusual stories that are potentially interesting.

1 Comment

  • Avatar
    Reply December 9, 2014

    Max Kirkpatrick

    As a person who has always wanted to take the plunge and get a tattoo, this article spoke to my usual fears of getting one. Would have been nice to get another person’s perspective who was on the positive side of getting tattoos, but well done on approaching such an interesting and relevant topic.

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