Executive fired for foot tattoo

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Predictions suggest that about 20% of adults in North America have at least one tattoo, which makes it likely that a significant number of your employees are sporting ink somewhere on their bodies.

It appears that both the popularity and acceptance of body art is on the rise, yet one UK executive found herself out of a job because of a butterfly tattoo on her foot.

HR Grapevine reported that former Salisbury FM executive Jo Perkins had her contract terminated after she had trouble covering up her tattoo – which she said she already had when she began working for the company and before it instituted a “no tattoos on show” rule.

Perkins said she was not dealing with the public in her role and felt that covering the tattoo with a sock or a plaster would draw more attention to it.

“The only way to cover it would be to wear a sock. I’m a businesswoman and I wear smart dresses to work, so that would look stupid. I suggested covering it with a sticking plaster, but thought that would look unprofessional.”

The organisation claimed that Perkins didn’t comply with its professional image and made no effort to comply with its policy.

So how can you deal with tattoos in the workplace?

Athena Koelmeyer, managing director of Workplace Law, said that employers could implement a policy requiring tattoos to be covered as part of their usual dress code or uniform policy.

“The trick will be in the enforcement of the policy – for example, an employer who introduces a ‘no visible tattoo policy after having many tattooed employees for many years may have some difficulty in enforcing the policy in a short sleeve/singlet top environment.
 
“The only possible exception here would be in the case of cultural tattoos (e.g. the Maori facial tattoos), where it would be inappropriate for employers to not make allowances for religious or cultural dress/tattoo requirements.”

Have you ever dismissed anyone because of their tattoos? 
 
  • Carrin on 2014-07-25 2:07:54 PM

    Curious, how did the small tattoo on the employee's foot affect performance. Clearly the organization that terminated the executive did not take into account the cost to replace an employee with intellectual property. On their own website they claim "applying fresh thinking, and old school credentials and new school thinking". Interesting, I suspect it is not just the tattoo.

  • Andrew J. Yu on 2014-07-25 3:19:19 PM

    Given Ms. Perkins’ executive position, there is a possibility that the tattoo was only a superficial excuse on paper to justify termination, with office politics being the real but “unofficial” reason.

  • Mary on 2014-07-25 4:45:12 PM

    I suspect Carrin is right; the point was the refusal to follow the directive, not the tattoo. If she can't be bothered to put on a little band-aid to work to appease her boss, what can they expect when a big issue arises? The cues are in the "she felt" and then she "suggested" - at no point did she just do as she was told.

  • Ann on 2014-07-25 6:01:42 PM

    What about pants with trouser socks or dresses with tights (instead of hosiery)? If your boss wants a conservative image, then he/she is entitled to your compliance, subject to religious or racial discrimination issues. Perhaps the issue really was the employee's attitude (i.e. the rules don't apply to me?)

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