SlingerVille Articles
Too tattooed to work?
Article by: SlingerVille Staff
July 13, 2012

At Sara Champion's previous job as a project engineer for one of the country's top construction firms, visible tattoos for professional staff were against company policy.

She found this ironic -- not to mention frustrating -- given that her position entailed inspecting job sites filled with tattooed construction workers.

"I was out on site all day, and I wasn't allowed to show any of my tattoos," says the 28-year-old Florida native, whose six large tattoos on her arms and back include a brightly colored sunflower, a marigold and a rendition of a Dia de los Muertos bride and groom on her upper left arm. "Ninety-eight degrees and long sleeves is not so cool when you're in Miami."

After six years with the construction firm, Champion decided to move north and find an employer that wouldn't needle her about her body art.

She found her "perfect job" in Danbury, Connecticut, as a project manager at a design and branding agency.

Now, "I have no problem showing up to meet a big client in a T-shirt and jeans," tattoos in plain view, she says. "I wish more companies were like this." Share your tattoo stories

The times, they are not a-changing?

According to a 2006 report in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 24 percent of Americans ages 18 to 50 have at least one tattoo, and 14 percent have at least one body piercing. Researchers questioned 253 women and 247 men via random telephone survey.

So, does the fact that body art is as prevalent today as mullets were in the 1980s mean that the tattoo-friendly tide is turning in the workplace?

"That question is best answered by [corporate] culture and by industry," says Jackie Valent, director of human resources in the Milwaukee office of accounting giant Deloitte. "If you look at a company like Google, a very entrepreneurial, Silicon Valley organization, tattoos are more acceptable."

"But if you look at the other end of the spectrum, which is where I happen to [work]," says the 20-year human resources veteran, "the answer is absolutely not. If you have six piercings and a big tattoo, we're going to tell you to cover the tattoos and take out the piercings."

(For the record, a Google spokesperson said that the company does not have a policy on tattoos.)

Amy Derick, a dermatologist from Barrington, Illinois and a co-author of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology study, isn't surprised that a few companies or industries are still opposed to body art.


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