Does an employer have to tell you up front if tattoos disqualify you for promotion?

I have my arms covered in tattoos Marine veteran and was hired by a security company. When I was hired they told me it wasn’t a problem as long as they weren’t offensive. Now they are telling me 6 months later I cannot do certain positions unless I cover them up. Do they not have to tell me when I got hired and asked if it was going to be a problem, instead of waiting till now? I don’t mind covering them up but I don’t understand why they just decided to say it now and not when I was hired. I would’ve changed my mind about working for them if I can’t do those positions.

Asked on April 4, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Missouri


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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

The fact is that most employment relationships are what is known as "at will". This means that an employer can set the terms and conditions of work must as it sees fit or deems appropriate. This includes who to promote and why. While it would have been preferable for your employer to have disclosed the tattoo issue up front, it was under no legal obligation to do so. Therefore, unless this action violates a provision of any applicable employment contract or union agreement, or constitutes some form of actionable discrimination (and it does not appear to), then it is legal.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

It would certainly have better to have warned you about this in advance, but they were not required to do this: the law does not make an employer disclose all job rules or requirements, including a dress or appearance code, in advance, and they may take action, up to and including termination, against you for violating these rules even if you had no prior notice if them.

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