Statistics show that 17 percent of Americans have at least one tattoo, while another nearly 20 percent are considering getting one. Now that it’s not a rarity to see a passer-by with ink all over his or her body (and/or face), an increasing number of Americans are asking our wrongful termination attorney Los Angeles, “Can I be fired because of my tattoos?”
Indeed, it is true that many employers in California and all across the U.S. establish dress codes that prohibit tattoos and any ink on bodies. And while more often than not employers have a right to adopt dress codes prohibiting tattoos for their employees, in some cases doing so may amount to discrimination.
“In other words, if you get fired because of your tattoos, you may be able to sue your employer for wrongful termination,” explains our Los Angeles wrongful termination attorney at JML Law.
Another common question from tattooed workers in California is, “Can my employer order me to cover up my tattoos at work?” In short, whether or not such conduct is illegal depends on a variety of factors:
- Whether you are the only employee being targeted by your employer.
- Whether your employer enforces anti-tattoo policies consistently.
- Whether your employer targets a specific group of people based on a protected characteristic (race, national origin, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc.)
- Whether your tattoos have religious significance
- Whether your employer warned you about not having any visible tattoos while working prior to hiring you
- Whether your employer clearly prohibits tattoos in grooming and dress code policies
When prohibiting tattoos at work is discrimination
Under California law, an employer can create dress codes and grooming requirements for employees in order for the employees to comply with their company’s culture and brand image. For example, the owner of a law firm may require his employees to dress formally, while the owner of a restaurant may require his waiters and waitresses to wear black pants and white button-down shirts.
Also, our wrongful termination attorney in Los Angeles says that employers may have a right to require their employees to cover up visible tattoos while working with customers or clients. Doing so is considered lawful as long as prohibiting tattoos does not violate California’s discrimination laws.
In other words, if your employer enforces a grooming policy or prohibits tattoos in the workplace in a discriminatory manner, you may be entitled to sue your employer. For example, if an employer only requires employees to cover up tattoos that include Arabic text, that could amount to discrimination on the basis of national origin.
Similarly, if your employer’s grooming policy prohibiting tattoos only targets Muslims, that could amount to discrimination on the basis of religion or national origin. In an infamous wrongful termination lawsuit against Starbucks, a male worker alleged that his employer fired him claiming that his tattoos violated company policy while his female coworkers with tattoos were not fired. A court ruled that since the grooming policy was enforced inconsistently, the male employee was discriminated against because of his gender.
Also, if you can prove that your tattoos have religious significance and you get fired over your tattoos, you may be able to sue your employer for religious discrimination. Tattoos in the workplace are a very sensitive and complicated matter, which is why it is highly advised that you speak to a Los Angeles wrongful termination attorney. Consult with our lawyers at JML Law today by calling at 818-610-8800.