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Ink Talk
Tattoos in the Workplace: Which Industries are the Most Ink-Friendly?
Laura Berlinsky-Schine

In the United States, around 45 million people sport at least one tattoo, according to Skinfo, a specialty skincare boutique. That's roughly 14% of the population.

With the number of people with tattoos climbing, it's no surprise that opinions about body art in the workplace are changing. 

Is it unprofessional to have tattoos?

While visible tattoos may have been a definite no-no in the past, many employers don't really mind them nowadays. (That doesn't mean all employers welcome them; see the results of our survey about how the hiring manager's age may play a role in her opinion of your tattoos—and when they will prevent her from hiring you.)

Can an employer discriminate against tattoos?

No states currently have anti-discrimination laws prohibiting companies factoring body art into their hiring decisions or practices. That means that if you're going for a job and are concerned that being tattooed will get in your way, no anti-discrimination laws will protect you.

Are tattoos allowed at work?

Of course, some industries are more tattoo-friendly than others. In 2016, Skinfo compiled some surprising statistics about tattoos in the workplace. They listed the following employers as the most tattoo-friendly companies in the U.S.:

Whole Foods
Sally’s Beauty Supply
Hot Topic/Torrid
Trader Joe’s
Borders Books*
Claire’s Boutique
Piercing Pagoda
Burlington Coat Factory
Big Lots
Barnes & Nobles
Forever 21
Spencer’s Gifts
Hard Rock Cafe/Hotel
Best Buy
Home Depot
FedEx (Delivery)
Mac Cosmetics
LUSH Cosemetics
Tokyo Joe’s
Dunkin Donuts
Half Price Books

*No longer in business.

While these companies welcome body modification to an extent, some do have a tattoo policy regarding what constitutes an acceptable appearance. For instance, at Dunkin Brands, which owns Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, any “depictions of violence, foul language, nudity, or symbolism” that may be considered offensive must be covered during working hours, according to Justin Drake, a company spokesman.

Similarly, Lisa Stark, spokeswoman for Petco, said, “As long as it’s safe and not visibly offensive, we welcome partners in both our stores and support center to show appropriate body art while at work.”

Are visible tattoos in the workplace inappropriate?

Clearly, except for offensive tattoos, many retailers, grocery store chains, and similar businesses tend not to have a problem with visible tattoos at work. Ariane Resnick, celebrity chef and author, adds restaurants to that list, according to CBS News.

Industries with the most inked employees.

Skinfo also lists industries with the largest percentages of tattooed people:

Military – 36%
Agriculture/Ranching – 22%
Hospitality, Tourism & Recreation – 20%
Arts, Media & Entertainment – 16%
Retail – 14%
Finance & Banking – 13%
Healthcare – 13%
Professional Services – 13%
Education, Child Development, & Family Services – 12%
Manufacturing – 9%
Engineering, Design, & Construction – 9%
Information Technology – 9%
Government – 9%

This may come as a surprise to some employees. While more creative industries such as media and entertainment have always seemed fairly tattoo-friendly, tattoos—and even some piercings—were generally considered a no-no in industries healthcare and education in past generations. No longer, it seems. While some employers and hiring managers may frown on people with tattoos, others—particularly those in a younger age bracket—have no problem with them. One recent trend is mothers getting tattoos to celebrate the birth of their children, something that would have been unthinkable in years past. 

Should Tattoos Be Allowed in the Workplace?

When preparing for an interview or just going to work, you should always take care with your appearance and maintain professionalism. If your employer has a dress code, respect it. Still, these statistics should be welcome news to people who want a job in some of the most prevalent industries, since they will be in good company. And as body modification becomes more and more common, it seems, an employer is less likely to mind your ink. Of course, offensive tattoos — or any tattoos that may be perceived as offensive — are still likely to get in your way, so before you ink up, think about how your employer or prospective employer might perceive it.

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