HR Strange But True!
July 12, 2007

Russell Parrish says he is well qualified, but the spider tattoo crawling up his neck has been enough to get him rejected from more than 100 jobs. Parrish calls it tattoo discrimination and he has started an advocacy group--called Tattoo--to help change the way heavily tattooed people are viewed in the workplace.

Parrish is one of the millions of Americans with a tattoo, but his tattoos are more extensive than the typical person's. His tattoos, which include horror movie characters and skulls, cover his arms, hands, and neck, and he suspects they are the reason he can't find a job.

"It comes down to skin color," he told the Orlando Sentinel.

Tattoos aren't generally an issue until they become visible. For those who work in plain view of customers, many employers worry how customers will react to a heavily tattooed employee.

Employers "can't afford to lose business because a guy has [a tattoo] crawling up his neck," Peter Ronza, a compensation and benefits manager, told the newspaper.

Parrish wants all that to change. He wants to be able to support his wife and one day start a family, but in the past two months he claims to have been rejected from over 100 jobs because of his body art.

"We walk through stores and people grab their purses and wallets. You go for jobs and most times they won't give you an application. They tell you don't even bother, you have too many tattoos," Parrish told Fox News.

Parrish says he has complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor but neither agency decided to take up his case.

John Campbell, the managing partner at Constangy, Brooks, and Smith , a firm that deals with employment and labor issues, told Fox "Appearance discrimination is not illegal-- may not be fair--but it is not illegal."

When we asked Lynda Rizzo, a BLR legal editor, about the issue she said the best thing for employers to do is have a clear policy on body art, including piercings, and apply it consistently.

"Employers can have dress codes based upon objective criteria such as safety or professional image," Rizzo said. "At the same time, employers should also be willing to accommodate employees who have tattoos due to legitimate religious beliefs. The courts are conflicted on this issue, so the best thing to do is to consider each case and contact a lawyer if you have any questions."

Sources: Orlando Sentinel and Fox News

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