An academic study suggests that employer concerns over tattoos and piercings visible on members of the workforce are unwarranted.
Researchers from the University of Miami and University of Australia found that the salaries and wages of tattooed employees throughout the United States were actually “statistically indistinguishable” from those of their non-tattooed co-workers.
The study suggests that by treating tattoos as a negative factor in hiring and employment, employers risk missing out on well-qualified job candidates. In fact, some of the country’s biggest employers are now considered “tattoo-friendly.”
Under employment law, employers generally retain broad discretion in making employment decisions based on tattoos, and whether having an “inked” employee is suitable to their particular company.
However, under certain scenarios, restrictions on tattoos in the workplace could run smack into federal civil rights protections, notes attorney Mark Fijman of the Phelps Dunbar law firm. “To that extent, tattoos that are part of a religious practice may need to be accommodated,” he says.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission takes a very broad view of religion and generally, courts do not want to be placed in the position of deciding what is or is not a bona fide religion or religious practice, Fijman explains.
He also points out that accommodations are not required if the employer would suffer undue hardship – that is, more than a minimal cost.
“Whether an accommodation would be an undue hardship is determined on a case-by-case basis, and considers the potential burden on an employer’s business in addition to any monetary costs.”