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Monday, September 25, 2023


Tattoos don’t determine professionalism

Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

The newest generation of professionals are faced with a dilemma when it comes to entering the workforce: visible tattoos. Tattoos are often seen as unprofessional by employers, but this narrative is outdated and young people are ready for it to be thrown out.

In a 2012 USA Today article, senior attorney advisor at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Justine Lisser said that employers are allowed to ban visible tattoos as part of their dress code. The only exception being religious beliefs.

With rules like this in place, employers have the power to discriminate against applicants for expressing themselves. They either have to be conscious of where they place their tattoos or make the effort to keep them covered while on the job.

There’s a new generation entering the workforce, and the norms are starting to change. People are getting tattoos now more than ever. As of 2014, 40 percent of American households include someone with a tattoo. 

The appropriate reaction to an increased number of people getting tattoos should be a change in the rules to accommodate more applicants. Tattoos are personal; it’s unnecessary to judge a person based on their chosen method of expression.

People are encouraged to find themselves during their college years. This transformative time often results in permanent decisions like getting a tattoo. 

Ironically, it also serves as a time to prepare young adults for their career paths. They don’t deserve to find themselves at a crossroads between who they are and the job they wish to have.

Jason Hankins, 20, is a junior at UH studying psychology with dreams of becoming a physician one day although he is “extensively tattooed.”

When asked about tattoos and how they relate to professionalism, he spoke very passionately. 

“If someone is capable of doing their job, why does appearance matter,” Hankins said. “Although I can understand why employers may wish to have client facing employees without tattoos, I do not think it is necessary.”

Despite his concrete stance in favor of tattoos in the workplace, Hankins did consider his future before getting tattooed. 

“I decided against tattooing my hands and neck for the purpose of my future career,” Hankins said.

Today’s societal norms have pressured Hankins into stifling his love for tattoos. He shouldn’t have to feel less respected in his career field for having the confidence to be his authentic self.

Not all tattoos are appropriate or have a deep symbolic meaning, and there should be rules in place against vulgar body art in the professional setting. But as it stands today, all tattoos seem to be deemed unprofessional. 

People should not be faced with the choice of having their dream job and expressing themselves through body modification. Tattoos are not the measure of someone’s dependability or skill. 

Employers should appreciate individuality and the courage it takes to get a tattoo and wear it proudly. Tattoos do not determine professionalism, people do.

Jordan Hart is a journalism junior who can be reached at [email protected]

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