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Tattoo & Hair Color Discrimination During the Hiring Process

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Have a Legal Question?

Rejection is always difficult to stomach, particularly when a potential employer has rejected you. As younger generations enter the workforce, tattoos, piercings and unconventional hair colors are causing a paradigm shift in regards to what comprises a professional look. What if you were passed over for a job because of your hair color and tattoos? Does this represent discriminatory hiring practices?

What Statuses are Protected Under Anti-Discrimination Laws?

Title VII prohibits employer discrimination based upon several protected classifications:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Gender

It is also illegal under federal law to discriminate against a job applicant due to their age or disability status.

Is Personal Appearance a Protected Status?

While it’s true that the choice to wear tattoos and unique hair styles falls under the realm of freedom of expression, it’s a murky area in terms of discrimination law. Employers are legally allowed to create and enforce grooming and appearance codes of conduct. However, these must not specifically target a protected class and the rules must relate directly to the job. For example, a restaurant may prohibit long beards on males and require women to tie back their hair for sanitation reasons. An employer could not require that religious head or face coverings be removed, or state that only women must wear a uniform.

Denial of employment due to tattoos can be a major concern, especially amongst younger applicants. Technically, an employer can deny you a job because of your tattoos or hair color. However, this must be a standard that is universally applied across the company. If females are allowed to show their cutesy flower tattoos, men must be allowed to work with visibly masculine tattoos. Otherwise, this could be prosecuted under the precedent of sex or gender discrimination because the employer is favoring women.

If You Feel You’ve Been a Victim of Discrimination, Take Action!

If you feel as though you were discriminated against during the application and job interview process, do something about it! Contact an experienced employment attorney to discuss your case. It may be that you can establish a pattern of discriminatory appearance standard practices, forming the basis of a viable lawsuit. When you stand up for your individual rights, you also fight for a more tolerant and accepting workplace.

Our team is uniquely prepared to represent your interests. Call us at 312.332.6733 today or contact our Chicago office online.