STORY #2-Ink in the workplace?


Feature Story #2

To Tat or Not to Tat?

Bill Stevenson, the owner of the Baltimore Tattoo Museum, has been getting tattooed for over 25 years. Tattooing has become his passion and his craft. He is covered in a variety of tattoos with the exception of his neck, head, and hands.
Despite the creativity and individuality shown through his art, he likes knowing that when he puts on a suit no one can see what’s going on underneath. Stevenson and others like him use clothing as a tool to let them walk in different worlds.
“I tattoo people from all different walks of life, men and women, old and young, rich and poor and from all different social-economic backgrounds,” said Stevenson.
Today we live in a day in age where tattoos are extremely common and popular. It’s not who has a tattoo. It’s who doesn’t have one. But people still have to consider where they get tattoos on their bodies because one day they might have interest in a job and their tattoo placement may be inappropriate.
Three months after she turned 18, Towson University student, Katherine Thomas, went and got her first tattoo. Even at a young age she considered where she might be working in the future and if her tattoo would conflict with it. So she decided to get her tattoo on her back and later on she got a tattoo on both her ankles.
“I would never get a tattoo on my arms until I know what I’m going to do with the rest of my life,” said Thomas.
It comes down to where you decide to work and if your boss has an issue with your body art. Thomas is sociology major so maybe she’ll return to Towson University one day and become a professor. Should a qualified applicant with tattoos have a problem applying?
“Towson University is an equal opportunity employer. Candidates for faculty or staff vacancies are evaluated on their qualifications for a specific position. Since tattoos don’t have anything to do with an individual’s ability to do the job, they should not be considered as a viable reason to disqualify an applicant,” said Debbie Seeberger, assistant to the President for Diversity & Equal Opportunity.
So is it fair to say that tattoos should be considered a part of one’s physical identity and no judgments should be made?
Local Baltimore tattoo artist, Matt Perez, is covered in tattoos and believes that a person’s ability to do a job should not be defined by their tattoos.
“In my opinion, it’s like denying someone a job based on their skin color,” said Perez. “Tattoos are in your skin and what you have in your skin should not reflect your chance at the job.”
An employer can’t deny you a job because of your tattoos but they aren’t required to tell you why they wouldn’t hire you either. Stevenson questioned what would happen if you got the job but then you showed up Monday morning with your neck tattooed. Is this grounds for dismissal?
It’s a different story when you work at a place where self-expression is encouraged. Nicole Zais is 20 years old and has over 13 tattoos. She is a MAC make-up artist and her as well as several other co-workers have an abundance of visible tattoos.
“I get a lot of praise for my tattoos at work,” said Zais. “They encourage individuality and I think it’s just another way to express yourself as an individual.”
She does feel that people make judgments about her tattoos but in her current profession it doesn’t make a difference.
The artistic world makes it easy for people to express themselves with tattoos, but it doesn’t mean those outside of it are willing to deny themselves the experience.
Stevenson knows psychiatric nurses and mid-wives that are heavily tattooed and it’s visible. He also frequently tattoos a surgeon from John Hopkins Hospital.
He spoke of a city planner for Baltimore County who throughout his career was completely tattooed except for his hands, face and neck and no one ever knew it. Then after he retired he completely tattooed his whole body including his face.
Do you think Baltimore County would have let him return as city planner with a tattooed face?
“We’re all pretty judgmental whether we admit to it or not,” said Stevenson. “We all draw the line in the sand somewhere and it’s really easy to say I’m open-minded but there by negating the first part of the statement.”

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