Last month, residents of a small Florida town were taken aback by a straight-up rude blurb in a local paper, called Vero Beachside News. As West Palm Beach station WPTV reported, the inexplicably disdainful paragraph read, "If you want to look like a freak, get a tattoo. Or more than one… Plus, you'll probably get lots of job rejections if your tattoos show." Unfortunately, the unnamed author isn't alone in believing that visible tattoos can make it more difficult for someone to get a job, but what that person didn't realize is that, about 150 miles south of the Vero Beachside News offices, researchers at the University of Miami were proving the exact opposite to be true.
Michael T. French, professor of health economics at the University of Miami Business School and lead author of the study titled, "Are Tattoos Associated With Employment and Wage Discrimination? Analyzing the Relationships Between Body Art and Labor Market Outcomes," collected data from more than 2,000 participants from all 50 states to analyze the perception of tattoos in the workplace. What he and his co-authors, Karoline Mortensen and the University of Western Australia's Andrew Timming, found is that, contrary previous research, the wages and annual earnings of tattooed employees were indistinguishable from that of employees without tattoos. In fact, they found that tattooed job seekers are not only just as likely to get a job as non-tattooed candidates, they're even more likely to get a job in some instances.
"The long-held stigmas associated with having tattoos, and particularly visible ones, may be eroding, especially among younger individuals who view body art as a natural and common form of personal expression," French said in a press release. "Given the increasing prevalence of tattoos in society — around 40 percent for young adults — hiring managers and supervisors who discriminate against tattooed workers will likely find themselves at a competitive disadvantage for the most-qualified employees."
French elaborated on the shift in perception to Allure, explaining that some employers who once forbade tattoos have more or less removed that rule from their employee handbooks. "Many workplaces are relaxing their tattoo policies for employees, even pertaining to visible tattoos, to reflect current societal perceptions of body art and to enrich the pool of qualified applicants."
Ultimately, it comes down not only to the increasing popularity of tattoos, but many employers realizing they may be overlooking the most talented candidates if they automatically rule out applicants with body art.
Vero Beachside News is probably not one of those employers.
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