If you have tattoos, you might wonder if it is legal for your employer to fire you because of them or to make you cover them while you are working. Whether or not your employer can fire you for your tattoos or require you to cover them will depend on the dress code and grooming policies that your employer has in place. It will also depend on whether or not your employer is consistent in enforcing those policies and whether or not your tattoos have religious significance for you. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler might help you to determine if you were treated wrongfully because of your tattoos.
Employer grooming and dress code policies
Employers are allowed to implement grooming standards and dress codes in their workplaces. For instance, a doctor’s office might require front-office employees to dress in business clothing while a restaurant might mandate that its servers wear pants and shirts of specific styles and colors.
Some workplaces likewise have policies about employees who have tattoos. They might ask that employees cover them up while they are working with clients or customers. Appearance policies are legal unless they violate federal and state laws that prohibit discrimination. These policies may also be illegal if they are applied in discriminatory ways.
Employers are prohibited from taking adverse job actions based on certain protected characteristics, including color, race, sex, national origin and religion. There are also laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of age, disability and genetic information. In New Jersey, the Law Against Discrimination provides protection under state law.
Employers who apply their grooming policies in discriminatory ways may be in violation of the law. For instance, if employers require their Hispanic workers to cover their Spanish-language tattoos because they believe that they might be perceived as gang-related, that would be prohibited discrimination based on the workers’ national origin. Employers who enforce their policies on the basis of sex may also be in violation of the law.Some employees with religious tattoos who were asked to cover them or fired because of their tattoos have sued on the basis of religious discrimination.
Freedom of speech
Some people think that their First Amendment rights are violated when their employers require them to cover their tattoos. The First Amendment only protects people from governmental efforts to stifle speech. Private-sector employers are private actors and are not covered under the requirements of the First Amendment.
Contact an experienced employment law attorney
If you believe that your employer applied its appearance policy in a discriminatory way against you, you might be able to file a lawsuit. Contact Swartz Swidler to schedule your consultation today.