Can an employer fire me because of tattoos?

When I was hired at my current job I did not have any tattoos. When I read through the employee handbook nothing was stated about tattoos. A few other employees have visible tattoos. I received my first tattoo on my hands about 2 months ago and they both cover both my hands. One employer noticed them and asked me about them after I first got them. I told him what they were and that I was planning on getting 2 full sleeves done. He thought they were neat and did not say anything else about them. Fast forward about 2 months and I now have almost 2 full sleeve tattoos. Then 2 days ago, I was asked to cover them up because it did not look good for customer service. I followed my employers commands and covered them. Mind you I work the night shift at a dog daycare. When I arrived to work the following day I asked my other employees if they were asked to cover their tattoos and they were not. None of my

tattoos are offensive and are in fact displaying my religious beliefs. Is there something that I can do so I do not have to cover them?

Asked on March 23, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

The above anser should be amneded to read , "...so long as such differing treatment is not the result of actionable discrimination".

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

As general matter, a business may put in place dress and appearance codes; specifically the law does not protect body art. That is unless such action violates the terms of a union agreement or employment contract. Further, not all employees have to be treated the same or even fairly. It is completely legal to treat one employee differently from others so long as such differing treatment is the result of actionable discrimination. In other words, there can be no discrimination in employment based on such factors as race, gender, age, disability and religion. Accordingly, if the tatoos have religous significance (like a Muslim woman's head covering or a Sikh's turban, etc.), then an employer cannot bar them. However, merely calling something "religious" does not automatically give it protection; you must give proof that tatoos are required by your faith. Further, while employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation for one's religious beliefs, even if your religion requires tattoos, if it does not require that they be visible, then your employer can be mandate that they be covered up.


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