Body art in the workplace


Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros
Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Two weeks ago, 26-year-old Charlotte Tumilty was sent home from her teaching placement at a Catholic school because her tattoos were said to be “inappropriate.” She was told that tattoos on staff members were “forbidden” and was even asked to use bandages to cover them up.

This situation fuelled a debate for many, who are now wondering if being tattooed was affecting whether or not you’re fit to be employed.

Third-year Wilfrid Laurier University student Meg Geurts confessed her fears about having difficulty finding a job after getting large tattoos.

“I want a sleeve tattoo really badly but I haven’t got one yet because I’m terrified to not be able to get a job,” she explained.

“I don’t even have tattoos on my right arm because I’m scared people will see that when they shake my hand.”

Third-year English and film studies student Kyle McCord expressed similar concerns.

“Workplaces do make me double think where or what I get as a tattoo,” he said.

“At the end of the day, my future careers could be on the line, but if I want to self-express something on my skin that could be visible to others, I want it to be appropriate and personal, yet not impact my job.”

Jan Basso, the director of cooperative education and career development at Laurier, explained how employers could actually react to tattoos in the workplace.

“No one [at the Career Centre] has heard anything from employers about tattoos. We aren’t having employers tell us that we should be coaching our students one way or the other,” she said.

Basso continued that after talking to a few local employers about the topic, the general consensus was that employers hire people based on their “transferable skills and their ability to do the job.”

While most employers don’t have issues with employees having tattoos, there may be more conservative industries that could view tattoos as less traditional.

“When students are going for interviews, I think the message that we deliver to students is to minimize your risk. What you want to do is present yourself as somebody that would be appropriate for that particular role,” Basso said.

“But ultimately, you have to feel comfortable in the role that you work in.”

Geurts echoed Basso’s idea of comfort.

“I would love to be able to say I wouldn’t work for someone who wouldn’t be okay with tattoos, but because of the generation that hires us right now, that is just a thing they’re not used to.”

Tattoos can be a terrific means of expression and can look beautiful if done by a good artist. However, next time you choose to go under the needle, remember the permanence of tattoos and the various perceptions — and often varying opinions — people will have of them.

The last thing you want in your next job interview is to have your achievements on your resume competing with the ink you may have on your body.


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