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How to Handle Prospective Employees with Tattoos?

Set Your Tattoo Policy with Care

By Tripp Ritter, PayScale

Here's a problem HR managers didn't face in the good old days. What to do about prospective employees who have facial piercings or visible tattoos? Is it any different for existing employees? The questions matter for more and more employers. A surprising number of potential hires are tattooed, and its not just the kids. According to the Pew Research Center, four of ten 26 to 40 year olds have at least one tattoo.  

For the most part, employers have the right to set policies as they see fit. The employer's ability to conduct business trumps the rights of expression of its employees. That said, it is important that employers provide these policies in writing. The terms must be non-discriminatory, so no separate rules for men and women. Rules vary across states, so be sure to check with your counsel before crafting your own policies. Just be sure you do make them! You might run into trouble if you fail to provide them before hiring tattooed employees.

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(Photo credit: micaeltatoo/Flickr)

While the majority of tattoos are not a protected form of speech, one form of tattoo is protected. Religious tattoos that are a sincere expression of belief are protected under the law. Failing to address this can be costly. In a 2005 case, an employee fired for visible tattoos that were an expression of his religion received a large settlement. Again, check with your counsel and be proactive in creating your policies.

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