Tattoos in the workplace

By Travis Hunter
On April 5, 2019

In the past decade or so, it feels as though the tide is finally turning when it comes to societal acceptance of tattoos.

While that’s a great thing, there still remains a large amount of people who have negative opinions of individuals who have tattoos.

Unfortunately, many of them are employers.

According to a survey from, 76 percent of 2,700 respondents believe visible tattoos will negatively affect a person’s chances of being hired during a job interview. In the same survey, they found that 39 percent of respondents think an employee with tattoos reflects negatively on their employer.

Judging a person on their ink rather than the content of their character feels uncomfortably close to discriminatory practices of the past, which we still haven’t overcome as a society.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen some offensive tattoos in my time. If someone has something explicit, profane or racist peeking out from their Sunday best during a job interview, I completely understand an employer passing them over for a position in their company.

However, the vast majority of tattoos are pure art. They are beautiful works of self-expression and shouldn’t be used to invalidate a person’s integrity, character or professional capabilities.

I currently have three tattoos and I’m working my way to a full sleeve. Everyone in my family has several tattoos, as do most of my friends, and they are the best people I know. They are all decent, intelligent, hard-working folks that an employer would be foolish to discount because of a bit of ink.

As with most social issues, the problem will not be solved overnight. 

Thankfully, the tattoo industry is one of few that millennials haven’t been accused of killing. A study from the Pew Research Center found about 40 percent of millennials have at least one tattoo, and the numbers are growing.

With those numbers, it’s reasonable to assume that as millennials get older, we will continue to climb the occupational ladder to eventually become employers ourselves. 

Hopefully when that time comes, tattoos will no longer play a factor in hiring decisions.


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