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Q&A: Can We Prohibit Visible Tattoos?

Question:

We’re thinking of requiring employees to keep tattoos covered. Is this something we can do? What considerations should we make?

Yes, you may prohibit visible tattoos entirely or you may simply prohibit those that are offensive, distracting, inappropriate, or over a certain size.

Tattoo policies usually depend on the culture of the workplace and are often found within a broader dress code policy. Some employers avoid restrictive dress codes because they may deter impressive job candidates from applying or drive away high-performing employees. Employers who want to maintain a certain company image, however, might prefer a strict dress code. Striking a middle path is also an option—something like “Tattoos must be appropriate and in keeping with a professional image.”

When creating your policy, make sure it doesn’t discriminate based on a protected class. This would include, for example, making religious accommodations. You should also be sure to communicate your reasons to employees and apply the policy consistently (while allowing for required exceptions).

Answer from Megan, PHR, JD:

Megan graduated from the University of Maryland, magna cum laude, and from Lewis and Clark Law School, cum laude. She has extensive work experience in a variety of industries, which she draws on to help clients with their HR questions.

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