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In Many Workplaces, Tattoos Still Taboo

Thirty-six percent of Americans between the ages 25 to 29 have at least one tattoo. And 16 percent of all U.S. adults have at least one. Yet some say they've felt stigmatized for displaying tattoos or body piercings in the workplace even if their employers don't have policies that specifically prohibit them, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

One local tattoo artist, Jeff Eden, told the Times-Dispatch that customers frequently ask for tattoos on parts of their bodies hidden from the critical eyes of employers and co-workers.

"There's still a big stigma attached in a professional, conservative environment," Eden said, adding that tattoos are "still looked at as trashy by older people."

Still, that hasn't stopped people in a variety of professions--including doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, and ministers--from getting inked by Eden.

Their reasons for getting tattooed are also various, said Max Wetzel, who works in the same shop as Eden. Some want to commemorate a place, event, or person, he said. Others choose tattoos for aesthetic reasons, shock value, or trendiness.

Sandy Pomfrey got a tattoo more than two decades ago to help get through a divorce--she got a butterfly above her left ankle because "butterflies are free." She works as a senior clerk in the advertising department at Wyeth, a pharmaceutical company. But even though she knows of no company policy that prohibts tattoos or body piercings, she wears dark hose when corporate executives visit from Wyeth headquarters in Madison, N.J. Because of the tattoo, they might not "think that I take my job as seriously as I do," she told the Times-Dispatch.

Her concern appears to be well-founded. Despite tattoos' growing popularity, they're a workplace issue for a significant number of people. A poll conducted this year for the Employment Law Alliance, a global network of law firms with labor and employment practices, found that 39 percent of Americans believe employers should have the right to deny employment to someone based on appearance, clothing, piercings, body art or hairstyle.

Employers have the right to impose dress codes and appearance policies, but as more people with piercings and tattoos appear in the workforce and begin moving up the company ladder, there will be more pressure on employers to accept them, according to Mark Dare, an employment-law attorney interviewed by the Times-Dispatch.

Dare told the newspaper that employers' policies need to apply strictly to appearance, without discriminating on the basis of race, age, gender, religion, national origin, or disability.

"The federal statutes do not prohibit discrimination based on personal appearance, but if you make distinctions based on personal appearance and it has an effect on [age, religion, national origin, race, disability or gender], that's called disparate impact, and you're going to have to be able to justify, from a business standpoint, that decision," he said.

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  1. i think the "problem" listed in the article is present in any society, even our own.

    it's issues like these, that's making me think long and hard abt getting my next ink pieces, which i plan to get on the inside of my wrists.

    hey noel, just a question, you got tatts on ya arms and all, faced any problems like what's stated in the post? do you think singapore's society is opening up and getting more "accepting" with regards to body art?

  2. hi bro, I've put up a post to answer your question :)


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