The two managers saw Sam walk past them and did a double double-take. “Look at that new tattoo on the side of his face. Can he do that here?”
Even something as extreme as a facial tattoo may be allowable in the work place. There is no federal law regarding employee dress code. Employers may set any guidelines they wish, as long as they do not discriminate on the basis of any federally protected category (race, religion, age, etc.).
Most workplaces have some form of casual dress code, whether as standard dress or some days of the week or times of the year. Typically, dress code allows for casual but professional clothing, but limits such items as sneakers, torn jeans, or tight-fitting tops. Over-the-top accessories and, yes, visible tattoos may also be forbidden. Even outwardly identifiable religious dress may be not allowed, if, for instance, the employer requires wearing a standard uniform.
You should base your policy on “business related” reasons, including public image and complying with health and safety standards. The policy should be clearly communicated in your Employee Handbook and should be enforced uniformly (no pun intended). Preferential treatment or “looking the other way” is a slippery slope. Employees need and want rules to follow.
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