Can I Be Fired Because of My Tattoos?
Is it possible to get fired because of a tattoo? Can my employer force me to cover them during work hours? It depends on the dress code policies of your employer. It’s his choice to decide whether or not he wants to enforce the policy.
Employer Dress Code & Grooming Policies
To promote the culture of the brand, employers can choose to adopt a particular dress code. For instance, a retail outlet might demand that all its employees wear a T-shirt with the company logo on it, while a law firm can mandate all its employees to dress in a formal business attire. Some employers are against visible tattoos, and that is why such employers mandate that all tattoos must be covered, and it’s completely legal although it violates laws against discrimination.
A dress code policy can be unlawful if it is applied in a discriminatory way.
Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal for an employer to make policies or decisions based on protected attributes such as religion, sex, national origin, color, and race. Decisions on the basis of age, disability and genetic information is prohibited by other federal laws, while state laws decide on the basis of sexual orientation, marital status.
It is illegal to apply the grooming policy in a discriminatory manner. A perfect example is that of tattoos. An employer can decide to ban visible tattoos outright. However, if he decides to ban only a particular type of tattoo such as a tattoo with Spanish writing because it might be gang-related, then he is prohibiting tattoos based on national origin and as such, it is illegal.
An inconsistent enforcement by an employer might be regarded as discriminatory. There was a case involving Starbucks and one of its male employees who was fired because of his tattoo. He claimed he was fired because of his gender, because his female colleagues that had tattoos were not fired. If truly he was fired because of his gender, that would be an example of an employer applying the grooming policy in a discriminatory manner, thus that would be illegal.
Some employees who have been asked to cover their tattoos or fired because of them, have brought claims of religious bias. For instance, there was an employer who sued his employer for religious discrimination because he was fired for not covering his tattoo. His claim was that his tattoo was religious, and it was a sin in his religion to cover them. If it can be proven that the tattoo is genuinely religiously significant in the employees religion, the employer will be mandated to accept the tattoo as long as it doesn’t cause any undue hardship.
Freedom of Speech
Some individuals think of their tattoos as a kind of speech and based on the First Amendment of the constitution, they have the right to display their tattoos because it’s a free speech to them. What they don’t understand is that the First Amendment protects them from the government trying to prevent people from airing their views, therefore, it doesn’t have much bearing on private employers.
Ask Your Lawyer
- If I cover my tattoos, can my employer still fire me?
- Is there any legal implication for my employer allowing employees to have small tattoos, which are mostly done by females?
- If my employer fires me for having tattoos, what can I do?
If you have questions on employee discrimination, please contact us here, or call us at (615) 425-4400.