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Self-Expression in the Workplace: Tattoos and Piercings

Wondering if a nose piercing would look cute on me, I asked a close friend if she’d get one too. Hesitantly, she responded by saying that “I want too but I looked up how recruiters can find it to be unprofessional.” 


Pause. Nose piercings are unprofessional? I had to take a minute to Google it myself. I was in disbelief. Articles upon articles came up about cases of discrimination in the workplace against candidates who have visible tattoos or any type of facial piercings besides their ears. 


My earliest memory of tattoos is from elementary school when we all discovered that my favorite teacher had a tattoo of his mother’s name on the back of his ankle. Of course, at that young age we were all so impressed with how cool he was. I remember thinking that is such a nice way for him to express his love for his mom who had passed away. In fact, young adults between the ages of 18-29, which make up about 40% of the American population, have been found to have at least one tattoo. 


As college students entering into the search for internships or full-time careers, to know that because we chose to express our style and feelings with tattoos or facial piercings might result in discrimimation bothers me greatly. 


The root of why professional recruiters view tattoos and facial piercings so negatively is because of the stereotype placed on individuals who choose to have them. Nearly a decade ago, there was an association created between violence and mental health issues and tattoos or piercings. This statement has two great flaws. 


One, we generally believe that anyone who has a tattoo or piercing is associated with this stereotype. Two, even if someone is struggling with their mental health, why is it so taboo for their form of expression with tattoos to be penalized in the professional world? It once again emphasizes how we as a society like to avoid and stay silent about subjects that we need to initiate conversation on more than ever. 


It’s simple. Tattoos and facial piercings should not be an important factor when it comes to hiring a prospective employee. The story behind what influenced someone to get a tattoo or facial piercing, unless it’s offensive with racial or sexist remarks, is personal. 


Viewing someone’s personal choices with their body as unprofessional is a form of discrimination– in same way that someone isn’t hired based on their race, religion, sexual orientation or gender. 


A tattoo or facial piercing being the sole reason of not being hired is discrimination in the workplace that inhibits self-expression that we have the right to. 



  1. https://www.collegian.psu.edu/opinion/columnists/article_11879efe-1587-11ea-b3d2-1baf3efcf73a.html

  2. http://www.collegiatetimes.com/opinion/stigma-around-tattoos-in-professional-world-a-form-of-workplace-discrimination/article_9beb4aac-4f25-11e8-9258-936dc3e3d38b.html


Seenam Ijaz

GA Tech '21

Lives in Atlanta, Georgia and is a 4th year Business major and Law, Science,& Technology minor at GA Tech. She loves to bake, go to concerts, and travel with her friends and exploring new cultures.
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