Posted on September 8, 2015

Ask HR: Can We Require Employees to Cover Tattoos?

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, one of your employees stumps you with a question you haven’t heard before. The pros at the HR Support Center really have heard it all—at least, until tomorrow.

Here is a recent question and expert advice from HR On-Demand, one of the features available to HR Support Center subscribers.

An employee recently got a tattoo on her arm. Can I require her to wear long sleeves at work to cover it?

Answer from Aimee, HR Pro:
I recommend following your written dress code policy on this matter. If your dress code policy does not address covering visible tattoos, or do so in a way you like, consider revising it. You may decide to prohibit visible tattoos entirely or you may simply prohibit tattoos that are offensive, distracting, inappropriate, or over a certain size. The policy could even be something general like, “Tattoos must be appropriate and in keeping with a professional image.”

Tattoo policies usually depend on the culture of the workplace. Some employers avoid restrictive dress codes because they can negatively affect morale and may drive away impressive job candidates. Other employers prefer a strict dress code to maintain a certain company image.

Whatever you decide, your policy and practice must allow for religious accommodations. Some religions do not permit the covering of tattoos or other religious items, and you should be prepared to make exceptions.

When you’ve decided on a policy, be sure to communicate your reasons to employees and apply the policy consistently.

Aimee is a recognized leader in the field of Human Resources. Aimee was previously the Global Director for the Board of Directors of the local chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. Previously, she was the HR Director and Global HR and Organizational Effectiveness Adviser for Mercy Corps, an international humanitarian relief and development organization, and worked as an HR consultant to small and mid-sized companies.

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_This Q&A content is taken straight from the experts at HR Support Center. Click here to learn more about HR Support Center and HR On-Demand; we’d also love the chance to explain in person