Claire Shepherd got an intricate hand and wrist cuff tattoo 18 months prior to interviewing for the retail merchandiser position at Dee Set — a shopping logistics company in the United Kingdom. She felt it was the "perfect" job for her, and obviously Dee Set thought so too, because they offered it to her during her phone interview.
Naturally Shepherd was thrilled with the news — that is, until she received an email from the company outlining its dress code policy. She wrote on her Facebook page, "As I read it I was gutted as they noted that all tattoos must be covered up as they are likely to cause offense." Shepherd also detailed that she has worked for six years in similar managerial positions, with several visible tattoos, and had never run into a problem like this before. Thinking the policy might be outdated, she contacted the woman who had offered her the job and told her about her tattoos. Shepherd was shocked when the woman replied they could no longer offer her the position if she couldn't cover them up.
Outraged, she took to Facebook to share her discrimination experience. She posted a picture of her tattoo along with a paragraph explaining what happened and why she felt like how she was treated was so wrong.
Claire Shepherd, 27, from Swansea, was shocked to discover that the body art on her hand and wrist made her in... http://t.co/58BEpNZZ0b— Yes! (@OPSYCHEDELIC) September 25, 2015
Within the post she wrote, "I'm shocked that people still discriminate against visible tattoos. I just didn't think this happened any more. I'm totally disgusted." It seems the world is very much in agreement with her, as her post has already been shared over 2,000 times. It was also retweeted by plus-size model and body positive activist Tess Holliday. Holliday has over 50,000 followers on Twitter alone, so no doubt this advocacy against tattoo discrimination in the workplace will go far.
It already reached her former employers over at Dee Set who, after they saw the post, called and offered Shepherd her job back. However, she felt the concession was too little too late. She told Daily Mail, "I feel if I hadn't gone viral they wouldn't have offered me the job back." While it's admirable that they tried to right their wrong, it looks a lot like a company trying to save face now that the social media microscope is on it.
As such, Shepherd decided to decline their job offer and now works for a different retail company. However, her experience has made her realize that there's work to be done on today's office job policies. It's a hard line to draw when you think about it — if companies can impose dress codes on their employees, is it fair to include things like makeup, body art and piercings? And who's to say which tattoos are appropriate and which aren't?
The unfortunate truth is that there is still a stigma around tattoos, especially ones that cover large areas of one's body. And since tattoos are something you get voluntarily rather than something with which you were born, companies often get around it being called discrimination. However, that doesn't make such policies any less hurtful toward qualified individuals who also happen to be inked. As Shepherd succinctly put it, "If the police force are allowed to show tattoos then why are some companies still not allowing to show tattoos. We are all individuals and someone's skin shouldn't affect their employment."
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