Can we ban visible tattoos and piercings in the workplace?


Tattoos and body piercings are forms of pure expression. For some individuals, these can hold personal meaning and/or emotion. It can be a way to express one’s religious faith, cover a scar, remember a deceased loved one, or symbolize a cultural rite of passage. Since these forms of art are fully protected under the Constitution First Amendment, can you legally make your employees cover them up? 

The answer depends on your employer’s grooming and dress code policies. It also depends on whether your employer enforces those policies consistently, and whether tattoos have any religious significance.

Some employers might require employees to cover visible tattoos while working with customers or clients. This is no different than prohibiting employees from wearing t-shirts and shorts or requiring employees to wear a uniform. An appearance policy requiring employees to cover tattoos or remove certain body piercings is legal unless it violates laws prohibiting discrimination.

Since tattoos and body piercings are such a growing trend you might want to re-design your policy so that isn’t too rigid. Draft a policy that best meets your business needs. Don’t base it on outdated appearance standards.   Times are changing and your policies should too!


Here are some tattoo and piercing statistics to review:


  • The percentage of adults with tattoos is 42%.
  • States with the highest percentage of tattoo discrimination statistics are South Carolina, Oklahoma and Florida.
  • States with the most piercing and tattoo friendly public opinion are Montana, Colorado and California.
  • The job industry with highest percentage of tattooed staff is the military.
  • Women under 35 are almost 50% more likely to have tattoos than men under 35.
  • Percentage of Americans who have had pierced ears is 83%.
  • Most popular piercing for women is the navel.
  • Second most popular piercing for women is the nose.
  • Most popular piercing for men is the ear (other than the earlobe).
  • Second most popular piercing for men is the eyebrow.



Traditionally, tattoos have been seen as unprofessional or a game changer but this is no longer the case. In today’s world, anyone can file a lawsuit for just about any reason. If you prohibit visible body art and piercings in your workplace you have to be careful. As an employer, you cannot discriminate and you may need to embrace a more encompassing definition of what is and what isn’t allowed in your workforce.


If you would like to partner on your HR needs, contact: Susan Arnold at 515-401-2233.


Susan Arnold
HR On-Call, LLC
p. 515.401.2233


A little more about us:
Susan Arnold, owner and lead HR Consultant at HR On-Call, LLC. Susan has 20+ years of HR experience and provides a HR presence to business organizations without the overhead expense of a full-time employee. Susan helps business owners improve employer/employee relationships and allows them to focus on their business while resting assured that they are in full compliance with state and federal law.

Areas of expertise:

  • Reduce Employer Risk and Liability
  • Customized Employee Handbooks
  • Performance Reviews
  • Improve Employee/Employer Relationships
  • Background Checks
  • Personality Assessments
  • Guaranteed EEO Compliance
  • Employee Retention
  • Recruitment / Hiring
  • Employee Discipline/Discharge

Susan is passionate about her customers and listens to their needs. If you are interested in any of the details above or would like more information about her services, please contact Susan!

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