Tattoo discrimination still lurks in the shadows

As more people are get tatoos, individuals say discrimination is becoming less prevalent in the workplace.

But some a stigma is still common for those looking for employment.

“I get stares from customers all the time on the job and have been told by several employers that my tattoos must be covered up during my time at work,” said Sirena Kong, a baker at Co-op in Calgary.

Kong said in an interview that there were multiple jobs she wanted to apply for but didn’t seek, due to restrictions on body art.

“Many places of business still have very traditional and conservative views on tattoos being inappropriate for business image,” said Kong.

“I feel like some individuals still see tattoos in relation to gangs or a type of rebellion.”

Retail manager Alice Chan thinks not all employers have kept pace with the changes in attitude.

“I know many luxury retail stores will not allow any tattoos to be shown at work as they want to create a clean brand image,” said Chan.

“It can still be frowned upon because it can affect the company’s image and make customers feel uncomfortable.”

Chan says that policies are there to protect brands and employees.

“Most workplaces have policies that do not allow tattoos to be displayed. Some companies are okay if you show a modest amount, however, I know of cases where a company has terminated an employee due to their tattoos not being in compliance with workplace policies,” said Chan.

While Chan agrees that company standards need to be met, there is some room for leniency.

“Employees do need to stand by company standards as they relate to brand image, but overall, I think it is okay to show small tattoos,” said Chan.

“I understand that tattoos are a common form of art and expression and we are understanding as long as it is not offensive to the public eye. But it’s a fine line because anything can be offensive to the right person.”

Livia Kong, 21, is a compliance administrator for Pinnacle Wealth Brokers in Calgary and has multiple tattoos.

“My employer allows me to display my tattoos, however none of them are what are commonly deemed offensive or inappropriate in nature,” said Livia Kong.

It’s the 21st Century, get over it. – Livia Kong

She said while employers have become more lenient, they are only forgiving of specific types of tattoos.

“I have worked many part-time jobs in the past and I find most managers wouldn’t care if it was a tattoo of a butterfly or script.

“But they are still strict with tattoos that are in relation to gangs such as skulls, dragons, and tigers,” said Livia Kong.

“Tattoos that are inappropriate such as nude women, swear words, and sexual content are also frowned upon.”

Livia Kong believes passing up on a potential candidate because of tattoos is a missed opportunity.

“If employers dismiss potential hires simply because of tattoos, then they are missing out on meeting individuals who could be more qualified for jobs than others.

“I think people who discriminate against tattoos need to see what century they are living in,” she said.

“It’s the 21st Century, get over it.”


About Geena Kim 4 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Geena Kim worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2017-18 academic year.

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