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I've got a teenage friend who wants to get some tattoos done. He has no ideia what kind of career or profession he wants to follow, and is far from entering the job market, so my advice to him was:

Don't get a tattoo before you've chosen your career

Now, I'm wondering if that was a solid advice or if I'm being biased/conservative. Of course this depends on culture, but I'd like to know in general.

My point was: Maybe if you are a tattoo artist, having no tattoos or low quality ones may speak against you. Whereas if you are a bodybuilder, those tattoos could cost you a few score points. There is also a level of formalism in the office that advises against tattoos (at least visible ones). In the past I've even heard stories of someone being fired due to a tattoo being discovered on a company pool party.

For info:

  1. He wants to get a sleeve done, which may or may not include hands.
  2. He claimed that he'd refuse a job in a company where he's asked to keep his future tattoos covered.

So worldwide, are there laws against discriminating tattoos?

Are there jobs/fields where tattoos are really unwelcome, i.e. you can do the job fine with them, but it makes it hard to pass a job interview?

  • I have lots of visible tattoos. Even up my neck. I am a professional in my field and take positions at federal govt and Fortune100 companies. It's not for everyone, it's a personal choice. The problem I face is sometimes a prejudice against me for how I may be deemed to operate. But in the end I always land the position I apply for and get a pay rise within a year each time and leave for career progression. I also have all the skills and IP that I developed to back me. It took me 10+ years to get to this level. Keep all that in mind when choosing visible tattoos. – Danijel-James W Dec 8 '19 at 22:22
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    Ask A Manager has a lot of posts about tattoos in the workplace that might be worth reading here. The gist is consistent with answers here: it depends on your workplace, your role, and on the tattoo, and can be anything from deal-breaker to unimportant. – Geoffrey Brent Dec 9 '19 at 0:34
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    Tattoos will either cause issues or at best none - but never benefit any professional career as an employee. He is young and he may be about to do something he will regret later on. he'd refuse a job in a company where he's asked to keep his future tattoos covered - Then tell him good luck with eternally having low level jobs then. He may be in a position where he can not afford to be picky about something he himself caused as an additional barrier of entry. He is a fool and you are right to advise him not to do it. He should do it when he becomes an adult, which is clearly years away. – Battle Dec 9 '19 at 7:12
  • I don't think you should be asking "worldwide", as that invites tons of answers with no relevance to you. I would advise tagging this with a geographical location so that we can answer based on the laws and norms of that region. – thanby Dec 9 '19 at 14:58
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    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matt_Taylor_(scientist) landed a spacecraft on Mars. – Pieter B Dec 20 '19 at 8:13
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While having tattoos today is less a stigma then it used to be, there's still a degree of "unspoken" discrimination against people that have visible tattoos, especially as it relates to what kind of tattoo and where it is on your body.

Some tattoos and tattoo placements are always going to create potential problems in terms of getting hired into certain career fields.

If you've got a butterfly tattoo on your ankle and you're trying to get a job as a dental assistant then I'd say you're probably not going to have any problem. If, on the other hand, you have a marijuana leaf tattoo'ed on your forehead you're probably not going to have much luck getting hired by one of the Big Four accounting firms.

The point being; it depends on what and where your tattoos are and what type of job/field you're trying to get into.

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    What if a tattoo is a religious sign or something? Like a cross or swastika? – Stupid_Intern Dec 8 '19 at 4:58
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    @Rohan you would definitely get in trouble for a visible swastika in Germany – Arsak Dec 8 '19 at 8:10
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    @Arsak Or anywhere else – Christian Dec 20 '19 at 10:44
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    @Christian you wouldn't get into legal trouble, but there are most definitely people everywhere around the world who don't like a swastikas (and what they represent) to the point of beating you up. In fact only a small list of countries (Hungary, Poland, Germany, Brazil and parts of Asia) banned it outright. – MindSwipe Dec 20 '19 at 13:43
  • +1 Even with in the same industry or field it can vary. Some places don't care at all, some places have explicit policies against them and in some places tattoos are frowned upon even if that's not explicitly stated. – Lee Abraham Dec 20 '19 at 17:30
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It's highly location, culture, and tattoo-specific.

UK police forces have recently relaxed their tattoo policy to allow visible tattoos, but tattoos which

  • indicate alignment alignment with a particular group which could give offence to members of the public or colleagues

  • be considered inflammatory, rude, lewd, crude, racist, sexist, sectarian, homophobic, violent or intimidating

are not allowed, whether visible or not.

https://www.scotsman.com/news/people/these-are-the-strict-rules-on-visible-tattoos-for-police-officers-in-scotland-1-4940935

It is not a question of it being hard to pass a job interview; possession of such a tattoo would disqualify you for the job completely.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) Police state:

You will be required to provide photographs of all (non intimate) tattoos, with a visible measure for scale. A verifiable translation must accompany any tattoos containing non-English words, characters or representation and an explanation of the tattoos’ meaning or significance must also be provided. Any tattoos which appear to be discriminatory, offensive or provocative will not be accepted.

http://www.mod.police.uk/recruitment/useful-advice.html

6

I think there are several factors here:

  • Do you have a job where you face public (there was a russian singer who lost the gig at the Wagner Festspiele because he had a swastika tattooed) or customers?
  • Does the Tattoo make a political statement?
  • Does it appear to the educated or uneducated third person (think customers) to make a political statement (The swastika which the singer was tattooed seemed to refer not to the German Nazis - at leas that's what he claimed)?
  • Can it be considered hate speech or encouraging criminal behavior (yes, showing a swastika in Germany is forbidden)?
  • is it strongly disrupting personal communication (i.e. tattoos in the face may be more distracting)
  • Can it be seen as being a code for a membership in a gang or organized crime/Worldwide: In Japan and China (that's the countries I know of) tattoos could be seen like that, and in Japan they are in many places prohibited since they are intimidating. In the western world this is partially true.
  • There are OTOH tattoos which may attribute you to a former membership in military, seafaring etc - i don't expect these to have negative impact if they are done at the usual parts of the body.

Make sure that the teenage friend understands what it means to not get a lifelong job which you otherwise like just because of this.

  • "There are OTOH tattoos which may attribute you to a former membership in military, seafaring etc - i don't expect these to have negative impact if they are done at the usual parts of the body." Only as long as you were actually a member of the actual military unit in question. Trying to pass yourself off as something you're not is something that can have significant consequences, potentially even being illegal in some locations. – nick012000 Dec 9 '19 at 8:33
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So worldwide, are there laws against discriminating tattoos?

I did some Googling, and it appears that Victoria, Australia might have a quasi ban on discriminating against those with tattoos, but it is by no means firm. The rest of the world, you seem to be out of luck.

Are there jobs/fields where tattoos are really unwelcome, i.e. you can do the job fine with them, but it makes it hard to pass a job interview?

Any white-collar workplace would be more against them. Any place where the employees worked with children would also be against them.

  • Victoria has lawful prejudice against tattoos, but it's also the most tattoo'd state in all of Australia ¯_(ツ)_/¯ – Danijel-James W Dec 8 '19 at 22:23
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    I'm not sure why you think tattoos in children jobs are "bad". I know a few young teachers and kindergarden teachers, who all have tattoos. Probably depends on location as well, here in Austria that's not a problem. Obviously like @joeqwerty said, nobody likes teachers with a marijuana leafs on their forehead ;) – kirbby Dec 9 '19 at 9:58
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It is less about discrimination but about business needs, and also attitude/maturity.

First, there is business need. I have a friend who works in gastronomy, she is tattooed all over. Which, personally, I find repulsive, but hey... it's her body, not mine.
At work, she wears a buttoned-up white blouse covering her arms down to the wrists. She has to do that because she works in a profession with direct customer contact, and there are customers such as e.g. me who find tattoos repulsive.

There's a distinction between what you are allowed to do in terms of your personal self-fulfilment, and what you are allowed to rub into people's faces, especially at work (also, in some free countries self-fulfilment is limited insofar as you are not allowed to have any opinion, or speak out any opinion, or get any kind of tattoo anyway).
In a profession where you are engaged in direct client contract, it is your job to respect your client, and to keep the client comfortable. It doesn't stop at being tattooed (or covering them). You may for example, depending on what job you plan to work in, find that it is equally unacceptable to come in ragged, dirty clothes every day. There are things that you just have to comply with, or you won't get hired.

There are jobs where nobody cares, true. However, with the exception of a "typical startup", those are usually not the jobs that are very desirable.

In most "somewhat better" jobs, you must maintain a certain semblance of professionalism, and some particular overall appearance. Got a tattoo in a location that isn't visible? Or something small and inconspicuous? Probably not a problem.
But surely you wouldn't find it very reassuring if you went to a hospital and your doctor had a big skull and crossbones tattooed on his right arm, and F.E.A.R on the knuckles of his left, and K.I.L.L. on the knuckles of his right hand. That just doesn't work.
Would you trust a bank with your money if the cashier looked like KISS on stage? Or like Danny Trejo? What if the cashier had ragged clothes, unwashed long hair, hippie beads, and walked barefooted? Would you feel comfortable having your money at that bank? Do you think the majority of customers would? I don't think so.

Next, it comes to attitude:

he'd refuse a job in a company where he's asked to keep his future tattoos covered

To me, this shows a serious attitude problem, and it is in my opinion a clear sign that your friend is not ready yet to make such a serious, quasi-permanent decision as getting tattooed. Even moreso as he doesn't even know yet what job he wants to take later.

If you outright refuse to cover your tattoos when applying for a job where this is expected (and "normal"), you are just as ignorant as the people whom you accuse of being discriminating. Only just, you have a misled perception about who is the one asking for something. I mean, as someone who is eventually going to apply for his first-ever job, one shouldn't too much lose perspective.
Once you are in a position where yet another headhunter offers you a better six-digit salary job with even better benefits every 3-6 months, you can afford being picky, eccentric, demanding, and even obnoxious. As a beginner, that's quite a bit of hubris.
Let's be honest, you have to present excellent grades and have a distinguishing feat and give a good impression and be lucky to get a decent job at all, having no work experience.
Because, you know, there's literally millions of fresh, inexperienced applicants coming out of school every year, and ten thousands of these have excellent grades, and they all want a good job.

As closing words, it is my belief that most, if not all things in life work both ways. That's in particular true for acceptance and respect (and for rights and duties alike). Unluckily, in our modern society, people tend to think differently.
They want rights, but not obligations. They want respect, but don't respect others. They want acceptance for whatever they do, but don't accept that other people want to do something different.

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    If anything, I certainly have very good reasons not to trust a bank with my money others than the teller having tattoos... – Laurent S. Dec 9 '19 at 9:58
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    This guy wants a big, obvious sign that he's different to everyone else, but doesn't want to be treated differently. – Robin Bennett Dec 9 '19 at 12:29
  • @RobinBennett This is speculation. Tattoos are not necessarily done for the sake of spectators. There are other reasons why people get them. – Geoffrey Brent Dec 9 '19 at 20:33
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    I'm not able to flag or downvote for some reason, but this answer is incredibly bigoted. – PTO guy Dec 10 '19 at 1:44
  • This answer makes me think of this picture: 1funny.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/doctor-tattoo.jpg – Erik Dec 20 '19 at 9:49
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Well if he has a conservative job he may have to wear long sleeves and won't be showing his arms at all. I've been shocked before with a coworker who had a full sleeve on both arms. He seemed very serious and rarely joked so I thought he was clean cut. I sure was wrong. I'm personally not into tattoos so I'd recommend he get a fake tattoo before committing to the real deal. Hopefully then he'll realize it's not worth the pain and cost.

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