It’s the most excruciating pain you could ever experience in your life. Or not. It feels like being splattered with specks of burning hot grease – over and over. Or it’s like someone snapping a rubber band against your skin. It could be like rapid bee stings in succession. It all depends on who’s describing it. What they’re describing is laser tattoo removal. People who provide the treatments usually downplay how painful it is. And why wouldn’t they? Business has been good for them the last several years. More and more people have been seeking their services after deciding that getting a job might be easier if they get rid of their tattoos – now the vestiges of youthful or drunken indiscretion. The military also has restrictions regarding tattoos, so people seeking to enlist are undergoing laser treatments as well. Federal law prohibits employers from denying someone a job based on race, gender, religion, or disability – but there is no such protection regarding tattoos. While more companies have become lenient toward employees with tattoos, others still restrict tattoos in their dress codes, mainly because of customers who have negative perceptions of tattoos. If a company has a reasonable belief that tattoos will hurt its image or public relations, it’s within its legal rights to forbid tattoos. Where things can get tricky is if the tattoo is for religious purposes. The employee then has to be accommodated as long as it doesn’t cause undue hardship to the employer. Cloutier v. Costco might serve as a guide to employers confronted with the accommodation of religious “body art” in the workplace. Kimberly Cloutier had both piercings and tattoos when she started working at Costco. She subsequently got a facial piercing, never indicating that she did so in compliance with any religion. In March 2001 Costco revised its policies to prohibit all facial jewelry except earrings. Ms. Cloutier alleged that Costco failed to offer her a reasonable accommodation after she alerted the company to a conflict between the “no facial jewelry” provision of its dress code and her religious practice as a member of the Church of Body Modification. Costco had told her that if she covered the piercing she could keep her job. She didn’t want to cover it, citing her religion. The court expressed doubt that Ms. Cloutier’s claim was based on “bona fide religious practice,” noting that even assuming arguendo that the Church of Body Modification is a bona fide religion, it in no way required a display of facial piercings at all times. The court determined that requiring Costco to allow Ms. Cloutier to display her body modification because of the way she chose to interpret her religion would cause the company undue hardship in implementing its dress code. Many people out there just aren’t sympathetic to people who think employers shouldn’t care whether or not they have tattoos. One guy with tattoos says his tattoos don’t define who he is:
I am a hard worker and very friendly person to be around…Employers really should take the time to look at whether people are truly qualified or not and keep tattoos separate from that.
An employer responds:
I have hired literally hundreds of employees. I have a job app, and about 20 minutes of face-to-face interviewing to select someone for the next steps, which are a background check and drug screen before hire. Appearances count…Visible tattoos/piercings that cannot be covered up tells me that this person has little common sense and judgemental skills. They don’t think ahead.
After making a list of other behaviors that are a turn-off during an interview – and the snap judgements he makes about the offenders – his message to tattoo wearers ends this way:
Unfortunately I don’t have hours or days to “get to know you.”