Should tattoos be 'concealed carry' or 'open carry' in the workplace?

The WaPo has an article describing how accepting businesses are becoming when it comes to employees displaying tattoos in the workplace.

Last week, The Huffington Post reported that the sandwich chain Jimmy John's—known for its restrictive dress code that mandates the color of the soles of workers' shoes and the shade of their khakis—would be loosening its policies about tattoos.

"A little ink is OK, as long as it's tasteful and not on the face or throat," according to a published memo by the sandwich maker.

This sounds a lot like the approach several other large employers have recently taken, as they make changes to their rules on tattoos. Starbucks and PetSmart made a similar policy shift last year to allow for "appropriate" tattoos. And even the U.S. Army relaxed its rules earlier this year.

There is "definitely" a loosening of restrictions in the restaurant industry, said Brian Elzweig, a law professor at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi who has studied the legal issues around tattoos in the workplace. "I think what's been happening is more and more people who have tattoos are getting into levels of management, and whether they're visible or not, they have a much more lenient attitude." 

I think tattoos look unprofessional, especially the very large ones.  When I see someone with a large tattoo, I think...

a) she likes to get very drunk and makes poor decisions

b) he takes illegal drugs and makes very poor decisions


C) he/she may have Hepatitis B.

Where does it end?  Are people permitted to display gang tattoos at work?  What about skeleton tattoos, or very graphic tattoos like the one below?


Would this be okay in your workplace?

That's why I think "concealed carry" of tattoos is best rather than "open carry" in the workplace.  There are certain kinds of tattoos that, by their very location, are hidden and so are okay.  For example, there are so-called "tramp stamps," tattoos that women put on their lower backs to convey precise aiming instructions to men during lovemaking, that aren't visible to the public.  Those are fine.

But tattoos on the face, neck, and arms look unprofessional.  When employees are at work, they do not present a relaxed, carefree attitude to customers.  They act serious and professional, or at least they should.  That's why employees don't wear shirts that say "Bite me!" or "Go Giants!" or wear those big baggy shorts.  For the same reason, they should not wear zombie tattoos in visible areas.

Companies who relax these standards defecate on their own brand image.  I was in Home Depot today, and I sought the help of a young, barely English-speaking woman whose arms were entirely exposed, showing a veritable comic book of illustrated scenes from wrist to biceps.  After explaining what I needed and some cross-cultural hand-gesturing, I managed to get across what I was looking for.  But I felt that rather than being helped by a professional of a major retail chain, I was being assisted by a member of a local girl gang.  It wasn't a good shopping experience.

Exit question: Do you care if your retail clerk is more illustrated than a coloring book, as long as she knows a little English, or do you expect more of a professional environment for your retail experience?

This article was written by Ed Straker, senior writer of, the conservative news site.

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