Body mod & employment – will ever the twain meet?

Many would argue that body modification (tattoos, piercings and the like), has become part of mainstream western society. But how acceptable is body modification within the world of work?

In 2004, Costco Wholesalers fired an employee for refusing to remove her eyebrow piercing. Costco maintains through their dress policy, “our goal is to be dressed professionally at all times…No visible facial or tongue jewelry (earrings permitted).” Upon dismissal, the employee, a member of the Church of Body Modification, sued Costco for religious discrimination. Later that year, the 1st Circuit upheld Costco’s dress policy and found that Costco had made reasonable accommodation by allowing the employee to cover her piercing with a band aid or wear a clear plastic retainer, (which Cloutier refused). See: Cloutier v. Costco.

On the flip side, a recent entry to’s Blog referenced a presentation by Camille Sautner of Universum Communications that showed how many Millenial students and entry level job seekers consider themselves to be diverse, (and therefore more desireable), candidates because of their body modification.

My advice? Generally, I encourage students to cover up tattoos and remove piercings for interviews. Often, body modifications are not, in and of themselves, the problem. In fact, anything that might detract from your qualifications should be avoided – including perfume or cologne, wrinkled or stained clothing, or even over-zealous gesturing. You want to be noticed and recognized for your abilities and strengths, therefore anything that might distract an employer from these should be set aside. If you feel strongly about displaying your tattoos or piercings, be aware that you may be overlooked for positions. As you research potential employers, it may be useful to ask questions about the organization’s dress code, and specifically their views on tattoos or piercings; answers to these questions may also help you make some decisions about whether or not you want to work for the organization.

Some industries, such as banking and finance, may be more strict about hiding visible body modifications. However, professional positions in which you would have little to no external client interaction may be more flexible. For example, dress policies may be more relaxed for some IT positions.

You can still be true to yourself by letting your hard-earned qualifications, skills and experiences do most of the talking.

(Re-posted from LUCareerCenter to Go – this article continues to be of great interest to many.)

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