Do Tattoos Still Cause Problems with Employment?

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Job interviews have widely assisted in selecting appropriate employees for most corporations. However, job interviews have been criticised as the best determinant of job performance as there has been a bias regarding the applicant’s physical appearance, race, dressing style, socioeconomic status, religion among many other factors (Roberti & Storch, 2005). For this reason, the problem associated with obtaining employment is the physical traits present in an employee which include tattoos. Tattoos have been considered to signify an affiliation to a particular group while it leads to problems with employment due to the body deformations involved.

Following the scarcity of job opportunities and the economic uncertainty, employers have disvalued tattooing, body sculpting, piercing, branding, and scarification. More so, tattoos openly visible on the body have results to some effects on the job applicants which further extend to negative social consequences. For this reason, tattoos are Visible Body Modifications (VBM). The implications of tattooing have contributed to the gap in the hiring process where job applicants and employees have lost their jobs merely because of the Visual Body Modifications. Different individuals from the various races and age groups were surveyed to assess the impact tattoos have had on their employment.

Literature Review

Different people have been affected in various ways in their jobs following the effects of having a tattoo. Similar to members of the society, employers react in different ways to employees with tattoos. Whereas some individuals have in the past lost job opportunities due to their tattoos, others have not and consider having other tattoos in future. Employees with tattoos are in most cases viewed differently by members of the existing social order. Individuals with large and easily visible tattoos are the most affected.

The approximate number of tattooed people in the USA in 2006 was approximately 20 percent whereby 40 percent of this population comprise of individuals aged between 20 and 30 years whereas 24 percent are adults and the remainder is teens (Koch, Roberts, Armstrong, & Owen, 2015). Among the reasons for tattooing among most individuals include making milestones, displaying individuality, sending a spiritual meaning, communicating rebellion, and showing affiliation to a particular group. Further, individuals choose to tattoo to express uniqueness, and this shows a link to the one's identification with a particular belief.

Psychologists assess tattooing from the cultural perspective where they seek to find the relationship between tattooing and deviance. More so the relationship is more evident among gangs and prisoners. Apart from deviance, psychologists have discovered that individuals choose to tattoo for the purpose of looking attractive. For this reason, tattooing serves as a form of body art and decoration. Despite the fact that tattooing can lead to health risks, individuals consider tattooing a way of showing genetic quality they possess.

Tattoos have in the recent years stirred negative and positive responses from employers considering the deviance and attractiveness aspect of having a tattoo. However, it has established that in some, non-tattooed individuals are perceived more positively than their tattooed counterparts. Tattooed people are considered more sensational than their non-tattooed fellow members. Employees with more than one tattoo have proven to yield high ratings regarding deviant and negative behaviours. Some scholars have linked traits such as lack of self-control and discipline to be present among tattooed individuals. For this reason, some employees have lost their jobs due to possessing numerous tattoos.

Regarding the workplace, the reactions towards tattooed employees are varied and more so when it comes to employee treatment and hiring. Some employees have lost their jobs upon the realisation that they are tattooed, and others have failed to secure themselves employment opportunities for the same reason of having a tattoo. Adult employers have shown different reactions which include both positive and negative responses when it comes to the assessment of employer attitudes towards tattooing (Andersen, 2015). Evaluating the relationship between hiring and tattooing has revealed a negative attitude where approximately two-fifths of employees have in the past been denied employment for having a tattoo. For white-collar employees, having a tattoo is considered inappropriate since studies on their service satisfaction have shown low scores compared to non-tattooed employees. For this reason, tattoos still cause problems with employment following the job discrimination. The low effectiveness attached to tattooed individuals is as a result of the stigmatising condition that exists in the current social order.

Despite the fact that tattoos are not limited to a particular category of employees, employees from the various races face varied discrimination when it comes to securing employment. Similarly, the discrimination in obtaining employment varies across both genders where women are less likely to get employment for having a tattoo (Hart, 2014). Some studies have shown that tattooing is relatively the same for both males and females but, gender remains to be a factor in the reactions of employers towards tattooed applicants. However, the job setting plays a role in the extent of discrimination when it comes to hiring tattooed individuals.

On the other hand, some employees who are career oriented and have tattoos have revealed that they have made them special, look appealing, and unique among their employee counterparts. However, one thing that remains common among tattooed employees is that the tattoos should not be visible in the case of white-collar employees (Rodriguez Cano & Sams, 2010). On the other hand, blue collar employees are deemed appropriate despite the fact that their tattoos are visible. For this reason, tattooed job applicants may fail to secure themselves employment in white-collar jobs which are not the case for blue-collar employees.

The explicit reactions of employees towards tattooed job candidates and already employed workers have given us an insight into the problems associated with employment for these individuals (Swanger, 2006). Adverse reactions of employers towards tattooed people show that discrimination still exists in the workplace.


The number of employees selected for this research was 101 employees where their gender, age, whether they have a tattoo and how the tattoo has impacted on their employment. The sample entailed white, black and Hispanic employees who were both tattooed and non-tattooed. The sample size was selected through a power analysis to determine whether problems related to tattoos still exist when it comes to employment. The respondents in the survey have been chosen through an online survey and were required to complete the questionnaires duly. For this reason, the respondents gave 101 responses which were used to conclude on the problems that exist currently about employment due to having tattoos.

The replies from the interviewees were then analysed on Microsoft Excel to give a clear impression of the impact tattooing has had on current employees and job applicants. Important to note is that the participants were not paid to give their responses as the survey was voluntary. The study was clear regarding the age of the respondents whereby the minimum age required was 18 years, and the respondents were also needed to be able to speak in English. For the 101 respondents, the results revealed that 64.3 percent had tattoos, 54.3 percent were considering to have a tattoo, 21.8 percent had a consideration while having the tattoo, and the impact it would have on their future employment. While those with two tattoos comprised of 17.8 percent of the population, the participants who had three tattoos consisting of 4.9 percent of the population.

On the other hand, the members revealed that most of the tattooed employees had their tattoos when they were above 18 years with 16.8 percent having their first at 18 years. For the responses received, only 28.7 percent of the participants considered the placement of the tattoo to avoid affecting their future employment. Despite the fact that most employees have lost their jobs due to having tattoos, 57.4 percent of the respondents declined to have lost their job for the same reason.

The survey entailed issuing the questionnaire to the respondents, and they were required to select among the available options where their response fits. Concerning the assignment of the participants, they were randomly assigned keeping in mind the experimental conditions. For this reason, consideration of the requirements for conducting a survey is necessary. To inform the respondents of their participation in the study, the respondents had to fill mini-questionnaires (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007). The first mini-questionnaire entailed their experiences during job application whereas the second mini-questionnaire looked at the experiences they received from the social order existing at the time. The participants were required to specify their race to determine the extent of job discrimination for employees and job applicants with tattoos (Wolkowitz, 2002).

The purpose of this study was to assess whether there are still problems with employment related to tattooing. The information obtained from the sample of 101 participants was useful in giving the generalisation concerning the employer's reactions towards tattooed employees. The design of the study was cross-sectional as it entailed the evaluation of employee physical and visual traits over a given period. The rationale adopted in conducting the survey was most useful following the need for a quick flow of information, convenience, limited time, and the need to have low costs. The sample studied entailed employees from both blue-collar and white-collar career to ensure the conclusions derived are comprehensive.

The purposive design adopted for this study was random as information was to be collected from employees in the human service field. For this reason, a random sample was selected to attain the objective of the study within the required time frame. Following the need to protect the ethics of the participants, the respondents were required to complete the Human Subjects Institutional Review. A cover letter accompanied the survey which signified consent between the researcher and the correspondent. Additionally, time commitment, contact information of the researcher, confidentiality, risks and benefits, and voluntary participation were included in the cover letter.

The instrument used in conducting the survey entailed content validity and face validity. About face validity, the logical link between the concept under study and the problem under consideration in the questionnaire was the most helpful. For this reason, the study established that there exists a connection between individuals with visible body modifications like tattoos and attitudes employees have towards such individuals. On the other hand, content validity entailed assessing broad concepts associated with the hiring process. For this reason, the piloting of the questionnaire to the respondents and receiving feedback showed that the requirements were understandable and concise. Thus, the questionnaire used for the survey was ready for distribution to the respondents.

Regarding data analysis, the information obtained was assessed to detect missing information. The questionnaires with missing information were not included in the analysis as the results would be inconclusive. Labelling of the selected surveys with headings for every variable included having a tattoo, considering to have a tattoo in future, the age of the respondent, their race, the number of tattoos they have and whether they had lost an employment opportunity due to having a tattoo.


Regarding the respondent's age, the multiple regressions used in evaluating whether it was a determinant in rating employees, it was observed that the tattooed individuals were mostly above 30 years. There was a negative correlation between the predictor variable specified in the study as having a tattoo or not and the likelihood of losing employment for the visible body modifications. However, the effectiveness of the individuals determined whether they secured themselves a spot in an organisation or not (Taibi, 2013). For this reason, the study established that experience an individual has was a determinant in securing a job whereby the most experienced people could easily secure a job despite having a tattoo.

Regarding the number of tattoos an individual has, the analysis revealed that there exists a negative relation between the number of tattoos one has and the ratings they receive from an employer. For this reason, the tattoos an employee has to play a significant role in determining their effectiveness in the workplace (Timming, 2014). Consequently, the addition of new tattoos in the future would have an impact on the employee’s ratings by the employer. However, most employees prefer to have tattoos on places that won’t expose the tattoo which explains the little impact adding a new tattoo has on securing employment by the tattooed individuals. For this reason, adding other tattoos was considered a factor in determining employee ratings by the employer and not a determinant in securing a spot in an organisation.


Discrimination against individuals having tattoos still exists in the workplace following the procedures followed in the hiring process. For this reason, having a tattoo leads to lower ratings by employers who view these individuals to be less effective in performing their duties. The study was critical in determining the factors considered during employee selection. Thus, the study paves the way for future studies on the determinants of securing employment opportunities. Further, the analysis done on tattooed employees showed that tattoos made them look unique and extraordinary in the positions they occupied. Thus, having a tattoo has a little impact on tattooed individuals in losing their jobs. Important to note is that having a tattoo for blue-collar employees was considered appropriate which is not the case for white-collar employees.


According to psychologists, many people tattoo their bodies for the sole purpose of appeal. However, every individual has a unique reason for displaying a tattoo on their bodies. Tattoo artists use the body as the canvas for creativity and art. Koch et al. state that by 2006, twenty percent of the population in the USA had tattooed their bodies. Forty percent of this total ranged between 20 and 30 years of age while twenty-four percent were adults. Employers’ reactions to employees with tattoos widely vary however the effect is visible in the increasing number of unemployed people. Most people associate tattoos with criminal behavior and lack of self-control; these traits deter prospective employers from hiring. Individuals with large and easily visible tattoos are the most affected.

Roughly two-fifths of workers have in the past been denied employment due to having a tattoo. It is inappropriate for white-collar employees to have a tattoo as it affects their client service satisfaction as compared to non-tattooed staffs. Some employees do not experience ill treatment and stigmatization however they are not allowed to make their tattoos visible to customers. Blue-collar personnel do not experience any indifference nor are they subjected to hiding their Visible Body Modifications. A survey was conducted on various persons from different races and age groups, to evaluate the influence of tattoos on their employment.

The study involved 101 white, black and Hispanic employees who included those tattooed and non-tattooed. The respondents filled in questionnaires to evaluate whether they have a tattoo and the impact it has on their employment. The findings revealed that having a tattoo lowers the employee’s ratings since they are viewed as less useful in performing their duties. Nonetheless, the most experienced people could easily secure a job despite having a tattoo. The study was critical in determining the factors considered during employee selection.

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