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Tattoos in the Civilian Workplace

If you ask a military service member to lift their sleeve, the odds of their body being covered in tattoos is pretty high. For many veterans, their tattoos are a permanent memory of their service, sacrifices, and honor of those who have fallen in the line of duty. In some cases, tattoos are also used to cover physical battle scars.

In previous generations, tattoos were signs of disobedience and rebellion. Those without tattoos might have seen a person with ink and thought they were somehow “dangerous.” But oh how times have changed! Most recently, even the military branches have eased their restrictions on tattoos of their service members. 

Did you know that about 45 million in the U.S. have at least one tattoo? With women being slightly more likely to be tattooed than men. That being said, the negative perceptions of tattoos have also changed with civilian employers. Many of them have been more accepting and embrace tattoos in the workplace.

Here are just some employers who allow tattoos in the workplace:

  • Whole Foods
  • Sally’s Beauty Supply 
  • Hot Topic
  • Trader Joe’s 
  • Target
  • Best Buy
  • Home Depot
  • FedEx
  • Amazon
  • Google 
  • IKEA 

However, in some company cultures such as law, finance, and healthcare, the rules for covering up tattoos remain in place. If you have tattoos and work in one of these industries, your employer will most likely ask you to cover your ink. 

Here are 3 tips for veterans with tattoos in the civilian workplace. 

Get Familiar With The Industry You Are Pursuing

Do your research and familiarize yourself with the company’s norms and acceptances in the industry you are pursuing. 

If you wear a business suit to work, and the jacket and sleeves cover your tattoos, then you probably don’t need to worry about them being visible. But if your job requires you to socialize with clients and the tattoos would be visible, consider how you might work around this challenge and if your employer minds if your tattoos are visible. 

Ask Your Co-Workers 

Talk to other people who work in the company. While company policy might accept piercings and tattoos, ask if they affect your chances of getting promoted or other advancement opportunities. Your co-workers will typically have insights into the company’s rules and practices. 

If It’s Offensive, Cover It Up

Even if your tattoos are meaningful to you, someone else could find it offensive or disturbing, depending on what it is. In this case, it might be better to cover it up, especially for an interview. 

If you get the job and you’re not sure if your ink is acceptable in the workplace, asking your employer is probably the best option. 


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