Reconciling corporate image with employee personal expression is not a tension new to the workplace. In the 1970s, policies that restricted men from wearing their hair long and growing sideburns were the subject of legal challenge. Today, tattoos are at the forefront of this longstanding conflict.
For an employer two questions emerge:
- Is it legally permissible to prohibit the display of tattoos in the workplace; and
- If it is, should an employer do so?
Can an employer prohibit the display of tattoos?
The scope of an employer’s ability to implement a policy prohibiting the display of tattoos depends on whether the workplace is unionized.