20 years ago, it was very unusual to see a tattooed student at U.C. Berkeley, and there was only 1 tattoo parlor in the whole city. Today, a lot of Cal students have tattoos, and there are now 6 tattoo parlors in Berkeley. Tattooing has become far more socially acceptable than it used to be. One quarter of all Americans between the ages of 18 and 50 have a tattoo. But wait! Before you get a Chinese dragon tattooed on your wrist, have you considered how a tattoo might affect your ability to get a job or a promotion?
Careerbuilder.com, a job search web site, asked HR (human resource) managers what they considered the #1 physical attribute that would most likely limit a candidate’s chances of getting a job or getting promoted. 37% said body piercings and 31% said tattoos. A similar survey conducted by philly.com put tattoos at #1. According to The Patient’s Guide, laser tattoo removals increased 32% between 2010 and 2011. When asked why they were having their tattoos removed, 40% of respondents cited ’employment’ as the principle reason. Many employers have stricter dress codes these days and are refusing to hire people with tattoos. That is legal. People with tattoos are not a protected class under labor or discrimination laws. I once refused to hire someone myself because of a tattoo. I was managing a restaurant here in Berkeley called ‘The Station’ when a young man with a skull and crossbones tattooed on his cheek applied for a job. I thought: “Who is going to hire someone to serve food to the public who has the symbol for poison tattooed on his face?” If you are going to get a tattoo, my advice is to have it put someplace where it can’t be seen when you are wearing work clothes.