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The Oakland Press: Worker’s refusal to cover tattoo costs him his job

23 Sep 2019
A 2018 study published in the Academy of Management Proceedings found that applicants with extreme body tattoos were "perceived as less competent and committed."

Originally found at The Oakland Press, by Daniel A. Gwinn

Q: I work at a large retailer. Several weeks ago, I got a tattoo of the Virgin of Guadeloupe on my forearm. She is the patron saint of Mexico. I wanted to show my solidarity with the many Mexicans (and others) being deported. My boss told me to cover the tattoo or be fired. I wore a long-sleeved shirt for a few days, but when the AC at work broke down, I was just too hot — and my tattoo was uncovered. When my boss saw the tattoo, he fired me immediately. Is there anything I can do?

A: There is usually nothing illegal about a private employer establishing an appearance code for its workers, or banning tattoos. Employers may find that firing or refusing to hire workers based on an appearance code that bans visible tattoos may make it harder to find workers — especially younger workers.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, nearly half (47 percent) of American millennials have at least one tattoo, and some 37 percent have two. Millennials make up 30 percent of the work force.

The problem is that while tattoos have been embraced by millennials, they are still regarded by many as unprofessional — and maybe a little bit seedy. A 2018 study published in the Academy of Management Proceedings found that applicants with extreme body tattoos were “perceived as less competent and committed than applicants without body art” and were less likely to be hired, and — if hired — received a lower starting salary.

Continue reading this article at The Oakland Press.


Read the original research in Academy of Management Proceedings

Learn more about the AOM Scholars and explore their work:

  • Chris A. Henle, Colorado State University, California State University, San Marcos Colorado State University
  • Ted H Shore, Colorado State University, California State University, San Marcos Colorado State University
  • Alyssa Marshall, Colorado State University, California State University, San Marcos Colorado State University