Discrimination based on tattoos, a sad reality for those who embrace their permanent inked bodies

Equal Employment Opportunity laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, religion, age, sexual orientation, veteran status and disability. Should the same enforcements protect persons with exposed tattoos?The increasing popularity of tattoos is apparent. What was once a body modification associated exclusively with criminals and gang affiliations, tattoos have become mainstream since the 1990’s. A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center estimated that 36 percent of those ages 18 to 25 and 40 percent of those ages 26 to 40 have had at least one tattoo.Although tattoos are becoming widely accepted in our culture, in many cases, well-established businesses are not as tolerant to the idea of visible tattoos in a place of work.In an effort to maintain a professional image, many companies offer reasonable accommodations towards potential workers with visible tattoos. Wal-Mart Stores have imposed standard dress code policies regarding piercings and tattoos. Prospective workers with tattoos that are offensive must agree to keep them concealed.Some businesses do not differentiate against individuals with tattoos. A number of companies tend to overlook a person’s qualifications if tattoos are exposed. Contrary to popular belief, first impressions, often determine a person’s chance of obtaining a job. Employers seek workers who exude professionalism. Unlawfully, these criterions regularly exclude individuals with exposed ink and exceptional work ethics.In 2005, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc. settled a discrimination lawsuit with a former employee. Edward Rangel Jr. was fired for having religious tattoos on his wrists. They agreed to pay Rangel $150, 000 to settle the case. There is no precedent set by the Supreme Court to end discrimination based on tattoos. That is because similar cases either never make it past low level courts or are end up being settled. Private corporations and employers have the right to take necessary measures towards employees who may jeopardize the professional representation of the company.Rapper/Business moguls Pharrell Williams and Curtis Jackson also known as “50 Cent,” are no strangers to permanent ink. Both have opted towards tattoo removal procedures in order to enhance their image. To further his acting career, Jackson’s incentive for removing his visible tattoos is that it limited his movie roles. Prior to having a costly skin graft procedure to cover large tattoos, Williams candidly explained his reasons for removing his body art. “I got fire on my arms. I’m a grown man,” said Williams.When altering their appearance an individual is making a conscious decision that could drastically affect their ability to advance themselves professionally.Tattoos should not justify an individual’s character or work ethic. A person’s qualifications should speak for itself.