Many of the 45 million people in the U.S. who have at least one tattoo are likely to face extra hurdles in the workplace, with 37 percent of HR managers saying body art has a limiting influence on career potential, according to research by the skin-care boutique Skinfo.com.
But there are plenty of companies that embrace ink, and demographics suggest more acceptance is likely in the years ahead: Among those 60 and older, a whopping 63 percent see tattoos as inappropriate at work; but only 22 percent agree among the 18-to-25 set.
No states have laws protecting people with tattoos from hiring discrimination, notes Skinfo.com, which paired the good with the bad on tattoos. Among the positives it highlights are 36 of the most “tattoo-friendly” companies.
One of the recipients, the cosmetics retailer Lush, embraces “tattoos, piercings, and brightly colored hair” as part of a culture that encourages “employees to be their authentic selves at work,” said Brynn Diaz, a talent resource team manager for Lush North America.
The UK-based retailer doesn’t maintain an official policy on tattoos but trains its hiring managers to embrace diversity and avoid discrimination based on appearance.
“We hire for skills to fill the job,” Diaz said in an email. “We pride ourselves on creating space for our employees to express their individuality. Tattoos are a form of self-expression, and we routinely highlight our employee’s body art in our marketing campaigns.”
Lush is one of 28 retailers that dominated the Skinfo.com list. Among the others: Whole Foods, Sally’s Beauty Supply, Trader Joe’s, Burlington Coat Factory, Ikea, Forever 21, Staples, Best Buy, Anthropologie, Half Price Books, Home Depot and Lowe’s.
Some tattoo-friendly employers have enacted policies that broadly allow body art but put limits on content that may be offensive or provocative for customers.
At Dunkin Brands, tattoos are okay, but any body art showing “depictions of violence, foul language, nudity, or symbolism” that may be offensive to guests must be covered during working hours, said Justin Drake, a company spokesman.
Pet-focused retailer Petco encourages “freedom of self-expression,” said spokeswoman Lisa Stark. She added: “As long as it’s safe and not visibly offensive, we welcome partners in both our stores and support center to show appropriate body art while at work.”
Skinfo named both Dunkin and Petco to its list of tattoo-friendly employers.
Also among the most tattoo-friendly employers are Google, Ticketmaster, online retailers Amazon and Zappos, and package-delivery powerhouses FedEx and UPS. Also on the list: Applebee’s.
Restaurants are generally quite friendly about tattoos, said celebrity chef, bestselling author and tattoo aficionado Ariane Resnick. For chefs in particular, “tattoos are never a problem,” she said. However, other restaurant roles including front-of-house functions may come baked with heightened sensitivity around body art.
“I’ve found that tattoo acceptance depends heavily on both one’s job and location,” she said. “When I did restaurant management in San Francisco, even at fine-dining restaurants I was allowed to have some tattoos visible; conversely, I turned down multiple offers in L.A. where I would have had to wear a turtleneck every day because they wanted nothing showing at all.”
Women are slightly more likely than men to have tattoos, Skinfo found. And the “industry” with the highest proportion of people with tattoos, at 36 percent, was the military, followed by agriculture, hospitality and arts/media.