Body Piercing and Tatoos

We are seeing more and more applicants coming in with visible body piercings (eyebrows, noses, or multiple ear piercings) and tatoos. The president of the company wants us to have a policy that says this is not permitted at work with the exception of an ear piercing. Can you give me some ideas on how to implement this type of policy and what problems I might encounter based on your experience?


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  • Don't think you can ban tattoos, unless they have an element that could be deemed offensive to some people. You can require that they be covered with clothing, especially when meeting with customers, vendors, etc.

    Re piercings, you can prohibit wearing something in the pierce during working hours.  We have an employee with a tongue piercing who sometime works in our retail store. His speech was pretty unintelligible when he wore a big stud in his tongue, so we did ask him not to wear anything in the pierce at work. When we told him why, he seemed to understand, and we haven't had any problems with him about this. 


  • I work for an office supply store, and my opinion would be that unless the piercing actually detracts from customer service--such as the person can't communicate properly (with stud in tongue) that the general public is pretty much accepting of piercings, tatoos, etc. If a person's appearance isn't causing a work-problem or (as bevhunt wrote) offensive then I think it should be a non-issue.  Of course that depends somewhat on your industry and location--I'm dealing mostly with younger people who are unloading trucks, and waiting on customers as clerks and cashiers.  We've had and continue to have our share of employees with long hair, dyed hair, tatoos, and a few with piercings. If the employee providing the customer service is friendly and approachable, that's going to resonate with the customer, not the fact that the employee has a tatoo.

     Another example: I would only take issue with an employee with long hair if the hair length was a potential safety hazard. It's hard to find reliable help and I wouldn't want to lose a good employee because they've got an eyebrow piercing, unless I thought it was hurting the business/it alienated customers. In an ideal world, everyone would have a "clean cut" appearance, but it's not realistic for us. At any rate, I've got no evidence that having employees with tatoos or piercings have ever hurt our sales. It's how they treat the customers that will leave an impression.

  • I work in the hospitality industry and our policy is that male employees have to have short hair and be clean-shaven (with a few exceptions for neatly trimmed facial hair).  Female employees can only wear one ear piercing in each ear that can't exceed a certain size, and we don't allow visible tattoos for anyone.  We've never had anyone question the policy.
  • An issue you should address is that you may have to accommodate employees' dress and grooming habits that are
    based on a religious practice or belief. You may have to provide a reasonable accommodation unless
    the dress and grooming policy is justified by a business necessity (such as safety).
  • I have fewer problems with tattoos--especially if they're mostly covered by clothing--than with facial piercings. I work for a financial institution, and I think many customers would be put off by a bank teller with a nose ring or eyebrow stud. So our policy is that if such piercings exist, jewelry cannot be displayed in them at work. I'd like to add that as a customer in a restaurant, I'd be offended if my waiter or waitress was wearing facial jewelry--it somehow doesn't look quite sanitary to me.
  • I agree that your policy should depend on your business and the amount of customer/client contact, or (in the case of tongue piercings) communication.
  • In my experience we have always had a policy regarding piercings and tattoos.  Tattoos had to be covered and piercings were limited to one earing in each ear for women.  Tongues pierces had to be removed at the start of the work hours of that employee.  No facial peirces were allowed.  I too see alot of applicants with more and more peircings as well as unkept facial hair. I am up front in the interview process. I ask a few basic questions like "If it were required by company policy that your remove your tongue/face peircings at the start of your shift, would this be a problem for you?"  or "If it were required by the company that you keep your gotee neat and short would that be a problem?"  I find that if you address this in the iterview process it save alot of headache in the future.



  • All of these posts are giving me the motivation to finally get such a policy together at our company.  One question though--what do you think is the best approach considering that my company is small, and there's only one person (possibly two depending on the specifics of the policy)  who would be impacted by a policy regarding piercings.

     I know I've got the "right' to implement and immediately enforce such a policy.  So it's not about that. But my real reasoning for the policy regards future applicants etc. vs. my current employees (though I think that they would both represent us better if their appearance was a little more conservative).

    . oth of the employees I'm thinking of have been with us a few years and are dependable workers with solid performance records.  I'm not talking about making them "exceptions" to the rule, but I am wondering if I should a) simply announce that the policy will become effective X number of days (30, 60?) from the time we introduce it (to give them some time to adjust to it) or b) implement the policy but take them aside individually and assure them that this isn't intended to single them out. Do either of these ideas sound like a no-no?  I want to make this change--I just want to do it in a way that respects the few individuals it would impact. 

  • I think you have to consider why you are implementing the policy. If these two employees have been successfully working for you for years, then it is hard to argue that there is a business necessity for a policy that prohibits their piercings. You don't say how extreme their appearance is, but maybe the policy could be crafted so they aren't singled out. My own view is that if you have a policy on this you should enforce it for everyone unless there is a request for reasonable accommodation. Telling a new hire they can't have a piercing when other employees do seems like a recipe for trouble and discontent.
  • You should also think about whether a tattoo or piercing may ne some expression of a religious belief....and if it is, you may want to think about whether or not you can accommodate that belief. Dress codes that discriminate against a certain religion or ethncity, for instance, can cause you problems.

  • Times are changing and so are policies. The Marines--famous for their tattooed arms--just issued a new policy banning tattoos below the sleeve level on arms.  Current tattoos on the forearm are grandfathered in.

     To see the policy, go to

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