Navigating the Legalities of Tattoos in the Workplace

Navigating the Legalities of Tattoos in the Workplace

Tattoos, dyed hair and other forms of body expression are becoming increasingly common in today’s society. Studies show that over one-third of millennials have a tattoo, compared to just over 10% of Baby Boomers having a tattoo. However, some employers have policies against body art and employees losing out on job opportunities because of it are curious whether it is permissible for employers to implement such policies.

Can employers legally enforce policies against body art and tattoos in the workplace?

There have not been many court cases involving tattoo issues in the employment world but in a few times that the matter has been pursued, the employee with a tattoo was given the right to show the tattoo as a matter of freedom of expression.  In the context of tattoos in the workplace, a rule prohibiting body art generally has to be viewed as reasonable in the circumstances. That being said, if an employer establishes a policy regarding tattoos in the workplace and an employee fails to comply with it, the employer is free to terminate so as long as they provide the employee with an appropriate severance package.

Some have wondered whether such a termination might be considered discriminatory, however tattoos are not protected under Human Rights Code and therefore it is not considered discriminatory to terminate someone’s employment because of their tattoos. The protected grounds under the Human Rights Code include things like race, religion, medical disability, or sexual orientation – things that people generally do not have a choice over – and tattoos do not fall under this category.

If you are an employee looking to better understand your rights at work regarding an employer’s tattoo policy, or if you are an employer seeking more information about whether you are permitted to implement such a policy, we encourage you to seek legal advice on the matter.  We at Whitten & Lublin are happy to provide insight and advice into your specific circumstances.  If you are looking for employment lawyers and would like more information about what Whitten & Lublin can do for you, please contact us online or by phone at (416) 640-2667 today.

Author – Nasyr Asmi