POST 50
01/19/2015 06:12 pm ET Updated Jan 20, 2015

Tattoos May Be The Next Great Generational Divide

Matt Geeling/500px

While tattoos and body piercings have become more mainstream, they still cause some to blanch. And where there's blanching, there may also be some employment discrimination. A few years ago, Texas A&M business professor Brian Elzweig reported that discrimination in employment decisions based on tattooing and body piercing was actually not illegal.

According to what Elzweig wrote, courts have consistently rejected public employees' constitutional claims, the most common of which is that the tattoo or piercing is protected by the First Amendment (freedom of speech or expression). Tattoos and piercings are considered to be alterable; therefore, they do not automatically receive any special legal protection, the article said.

“Employees need to use discretion in the workplace,” Elzweig warned at the time. “In addition, employers need to recognize that the paradigm is shifting and that body modifications are becoming more mainstream.”

A 2012 Harris Poll survey found that one in five adults has a tattoo.

Huff/Post50 asked our Facebook fans what they thought of tattoos and body piercings in the workplace. Are they a big deal or not? Their responses left our eyes stinging and ears ringing!

Mark Hammond said "If given a choice, I would avoid doing business with a company where the employees had visible tattoos." Tamara Hall da Silva said she "can't stand to see [tattoos or piercings] at the doctor's office - labs, hospitals. [It] makes me uncomfortable." And Mike Ashley noted that if you work for a company that wants you "to be presentable to their customers," then you need to abide by their rules if you want the job." He adds, "Otherwise take a hike and let someone who really wants it have it."

Sandy Clutter advises this for those with tattoos: "Keep them covered." Iona Warmack called body piercings and tattoos "barbaric." And many agreed with Paula Rehnlund when she called them "unprofessional."

Beth Greenshields Courrau said she can deal with "a small tattoo," but added that "some people are so covered that I find myself totally distracted by it." Her advice is that having a tattoo "can work against you -- whether that is fair or not."

Jane T. Brodbar, however, said our question was "WAY too vague and displays an actual misunderstanding of body art altogether. Your question needs to be more specific to even have any kind of a rational or civil conversation about this." Ren Zelaya agreed that we asked "Too vague of a question to be able to answer intelligently," but added this: "For the most part though...if you seek a job within a standard business doing standard business practices that require client interactions...making yourself look like a gangster or punk rocker isn't going to get you a second interview for the position."

Gayle Hobbs also noted that it "depends on the job." Francine Scism says piercings are "a very big deal, especially in the food service business. I do not want my waiter or waitress having body piercings anywhere! Tattoos are different, but I do not like anyone sporting a tattoo and that is my opinion."

Peggy M. Raddatz encouraged employers to not "judge a book by its cover -- no matter what the job is. Period." And Ed Milnes says that "Body art/modification says nothing about the content of the person."

Beth Duncan says she sees growing acceptance of tattoos in her home state of Texas. "There was a time when you never saw a tattoo or piercing but it is becoming more commonplace."

Gilda Cobretti says tattoos are "no big deal anymore." Rae Ann Nolan says, "I prefer them covered but I can deal."

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