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May 19, 2008

And Now, the Tattoo Policy


The job applicant had reasonable qualifications – not the best I’d ever seen, but enough to justify an offer. The interview went well enough.


But there was a problem. It was red and black, and roughly approximated the shape of a dagger. It was on his forearm, which was plainly in view given that he showed up wearing a short-sleeve shirt and no coat.


It was his tattoo. Once he was gone, I was about to bring it up to my HR director, but she beat me to it.


“I saw you looking at the tattoo all throughout the interview, D.F.,” she said.


“Wasn’t it lovely?”


“What’s your point?”


“Well, what do you think of the decision-making process that leads you to show up for a job interview with your tattoo shining forth in all its glory?”


“Are you suggesting we decline to make him an offer because he has a tattoo?”


Yes. I was suggesting that. Not because tattoos bother me – they don’t – but because Mr. Job Applicant had no way of knowing before he showed up for the interview that tattoos don’t bother me. Would it not occur to you at all that a black and red dagger on your arm might strike your prospective new boss as unprofessional? I thought that was a problem.


But my HR director thought we had a bigger problem.


“There’s no mention of that in our tattoo policy,” she said.


“Our . . . whaaaaat policy?”


“Our tattoo policy, D.F., which by the way, we don’t have one of.”


Now I was confused. We don’t have a tattoo policy. This can only be a good thing. Who sits around thinking of off-the-wall new policies to come up with, and says, “Oh my God, we don’t have a tattoo policy – hold all my calls!”?


But I know who does that. HR directors do it. They want to have a policy for everything. Tattoos. Body piercings. Fruit protruding from visible orifices. Anything to prevent having to make a judgment call.


“What if an applicant has a banana peel hanging from his ear? Can I refuse to hire him because I think that’s weird? Or do I need to have a banana peel policy first?


“D.F., now you’re just being ridiculous.”


Yeah, I do that a lot.


I prefer to just have one policy when it comes to hiring: If I like you, I’ll hire you. This, I’m told, is subjective and arbitrary. But that’s OK with me as long as I’m the one being subjective and arbitrary. That works great for me.


“That won’t stand up in court, D.F.”




Did you ever have one of those days when you wanted to sell your company and get a job at a bowling alley?


“D.F., I know you hate rules – OK, except the ones you make – but without a written policy, we’re leaving ourselves wide open for a charge of hiring discrimination, and there will be no way for us to argue that a decision wasn’t completely capricious and arbitrary. It will cost you thousands, at a minimum. Is that what you want?”


Sounds like crap when she says it.


OK, so we had to have a policy. I thought we were best advised to err on the side of comprehensiveness.


“Take this down. The company’s hiring policy is that nothing is allowed.”




“Nothing at all. If you do it, say it, wear it, display it or give off its smell, you will not be hired.”


“D.F., no one will even know what that policy is supposed to mean.”


Exactly. I couldn’t have written it any better.

© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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