What are some issues that employers should consider when developing standards for appearance?

Case #2

The Texas Department of Public Safety requires uniformed troopers to cover their tattoos and branding with long-sleeved shirts or skin-toned patches while they are on duty.  The Austin Police Department allows tattoos except on an officer’s face and head and additionally requires that offensive tattoos be covered by the officer’s uniform or patches.  Additionally, a federal court ruled that the Fort Worth Police Department could require a heavily tattooed officer to cover his body while on duty.

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In Hillsborough County, FL, the policy for the Sheriff’s Office’s states that patrol deputies, detention deputies, and community service officers cannot get new tattoos that would be visible when they wear their uniforms.  Those that already have tattoos must cover them with long-sleeved shirts and pants, even in the summer, if the supervisor deems the tattoos racist, sexist, offensive, obscene or excessive.  Tattoos that promote or support gang activity or that cover more than half of an extremity also must be covered.  Tattoos on the face, neck or head are banned.  Uniformed personnel with acceptable tattoos in visible locations, such as the hand, will be grandfathered in.  Applicants to the department who have tattoos that cannot be easily covered up will not be hired.  The department’s appearance policy also forbids male deputies from wearing earrings or any visible body piercing.  Female deputies can have earrings in only the lower lobes, not the upper cartilage and not on the nose or lip.

The City of Tampa, FL and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office have similar policies on visible tattoos.

The City of Petersburg and the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office do NOT have a policy on tattoos.

 

Questions:

  1.  Is the refusal to hire an applicant with visible tattoos a type of employment discrimination?
  2. Does a public safety employer have a right to institute personnel policies in regard to standards for appearances?  Should law enforcement be different than other occupations?  Explain your answer.
  3. What are some issues that employers should consider when developing standards for appearance?

 

Sources:  Colavecchio-Van Sickler, 2005; Susswein (2006)

Pynes, Joan. (2009). Human resources management for public and nonprofit organizations : a strategic approach. San Francisco, CA :Jossey-Bass

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