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Can my employer make me cover up my tattoos?

It may be 2022, but some employers still retain dress codes that you might feel should have died with the dinosaurs.

While tattoos were once considered the preserve of sailors and prisoners, nowadays everyone from your granny to your 18-year-old niece may have one. In fact, they may have more than one, with many people filling their arms, legs and other body parts with them.

Despite the fact that almost a third of all Americans have a tattoo or piercing, some employers insist that you must cover them up. This can require you to wear long sleeves and pants when you would much rather put on short sleeves and shorts.

Can your employer do this?

Employers can insist you cover up your tattoos

However, they can only do this if they insist everyone abides by the same rules. For example, they cannot allow men to show them but not women. Or they cannot decide that one person’s tattoo is OK because it is of a kitten, but other people’s are not.

The only possible reason an employer could allow one tattoo but not another is if it is a religious requirement. Unless perhaps it comes down to different job roles. For example, people in customer-facing positions might be expected to meet different standards than workers who never leave the warehouse.

It can be challenging to work out if your employer’s dress codes and appearance requirements are legitimate or if they infringe on your rights. The general rule is that employers must account for people’s religious and cultural differences and cannot discriminate based on protected classes such as gender, race, religion, or nationality.

If you think your employer is discriminating against you, seek legal help to find out more.


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