Summary and Response Essay on Tattoos and Piercings: Issues of Body Modification and the Workplace

Tattoos and Piercings: Issues of Body Modification and the Workplace

Tattoos are becoming very common in today’s society. Tattoos are no longer reserved for the rebellious. They can be found on many people, including highly educated upper class citizens of the United States. Brian Elzwig and Donna K. Peeples wrote a highly informative article “Tattoos and Piercings: Issues of Body Modification and the Workplace” which discusses the increasing number of people who have tattoos, as well as legal issues that come about when a person feels that an employer has discriminated against them for having a tattoo or other body modification.

The article explains the rapid rate at which the population of people with tattoos is rising. A study described by Elzweig and Peeples (2011) shows that “10 percent of baby boomers got a tattoo at some point in their lives. The percent of people in Generation X (born between 1966 and 1980) with a tattoo jumped to 40 percent, and those in Generation next (born between 1981 and 1988) with a tattoo were at 36 percent” (p. 2). This data clearly shows that tattoos are becoming more common now than they were in the past. The fact that tattoos are becoming more common however, has not changed everyone’s view of people adorned with tattoos. People who do not have tattoos are more likely to perceive a person with a tattoo as bad in some way. The article has results from a poll taken by people with and without tattoos that asked them if they viewed people with tattoos as rebellious. The results given by Elzweig and Peeples (2011) shows that “in 2008 54 percent of people without tattoos viewed tattooed people as rebellious while only 12 percent with tattoos had the same view” (p. 2). With all of that said, the article indicates that at some point companies will need to stop discriminating against the tattooed population. The simple reason is that if companies continue to discriminate against the tattooed population, their potential employee pool will be limited due to the increasing number of otherwise qualified people with tattoos being eliminated from the application list.

In the article, Elzweig and Peeples go on to discuss the legal issues that come about when a decision about employment is decided based in whole or part on some sort of body modification. There are laws in place that protect individuals from being discriminated against in the workplace. As it states in the article by Elzweig and Peeples (2011) “All people are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which makes it an unlawful employment practice to discriminate against people because of race, sex, disability, religion, or national origin” (p. 4). Tattoos and piercings are alterations of the body that a person chooses to have, therefore Title VII does not protect a person from being discriminated against for having these alterations. In some instances a person’s tattoo can be protected under Title VII. If the person can prove that the tattoo he has is for religious purposes then he would be protected under Title VII. However, it is very difficult for the employee to prove his case in court because many religions are not well known. An employer can be held in violation of Title VII if they have a policy that allows one sex to have a tattoo while not allowing the other sex the same allowance because this could be considered sex discrimination. The article gives several examples of actual court cases that show that even though there are cases in which the court will find in favor of the employee, the written laws are in favor of the employer. The law recognizes that an employer has the right to enact a dress code that meets the standards the company wants to reflect.

Elzweig and Peeples also give insight on future trends in regards to tattoos in the workplace. They take into account the rising number of people with tattoos and discuss how the tables could turn to be in favor of the employee during a court proceeding. As Elzweig and Peeples (2011) state in the article “If companies are required to prove actual hardship and tattoos and piercings are more accepted and commonplace (and therefore “normal”) then the level of proof will also rise” (p. 9), meaning the burden to prove hardship will lie on the employer. In light of these trends, Elzweig and Peeples provide a list of nine points for employers to consider before putting dress codes in place that restrict tattoos or other body modifications. The list includes tips that will help the employer avoid discrimination lawsuits by updating current policies to reflect the rising trend of body modification. In the event that the employer feels the need to keep the old policies in place regardless of the trends, Elzweig and Peeples (2011) list includes forewarnings such as; “Have legitimate business reasons for restrictions in the dress code, and have data to support those reasons” (p. 11). This is important because, as previously stated, the burden of proof of hardship will lie on the employer.

After reading Elzweig and Peeples well thought out article about tattoos and piercings causing legal issues in the workplace it is clear that employers need to revise dress policies that exclude hiring someone who has this type of body modification. Too many people will be unemployable if employers continued to be allowed to discriminate against those that have tattoos. Time will be wasted in the courts sorting out who gets to have their tattoo and who does not. While one could agree that there are instances when a tattoo could be deemed inappropriate due to the nature of the tattoo, a tattoo should not disqualify an otherwise qualified person for a position simply because it is there. Tattoos are not a reflection of a person’s abilities. They are simply a reflection of a person’s own thoughts, feelings, and creative ideas.

In the very informative article “Tattoos and Piercings: Issues of Body Modification and the Workplace”, Brian Elzwig and Donna K. Peeples give insight on current and future trends regarding legal issues that arise when employment decisions are made based solely or in part on a person having body modifications including but not limited to tattoos. The article focuses on the current trends and gives tips to employers to avoid the long and expensive process of going through the legal process. The article reflects on the reality that more people are getting tattoos, which shows that the negative perception that people once had about tattoos has changed. Due to this change employers would be wise to revise policies that restrict tattoos and piercings in the workplace.

Elzweig, B. & Peeples, D. K. (2011). Tattoos and piercings: issues of body modification and the workplace. Advanced Management Journal, 76(1) , 13-23. Retrieved September 30, 2011, from Wilsons Web