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Equal Employment Opportunity and Body Modification

Updated on December 23, 2012

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was brought to fruition by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) to ensure that potential employees could not be discriminated against. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) protects against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, and genetic information, as well as disabled, recently separated, other protected, and armed forces service medal veterans. These bases apply to hiring, promotion, discharge, pay, benefits, training, classification, and referral in the workplace.

But is something missing?

Despite seeming covering all bases, the EEO misses one important, popular trait: body modification. An estimated 14% of Americans have a tattoo; 36% of 18-25 year olds and 40% of 26-40 year olds (the primary age groups seeking employment) are tattooed. Also, 14% of Americans have a piercing other than their ear lobes, with the majority of those being facial piercings.


Innate vs Acquired

When speaking of body modification in regards to discrimination, the point arises that people choose to modify themselves and it is their responsibility to consider the consequences. Many people feel that an innate trait, or one acquired against one’s will, deserves to be protected from prejudice, while a willingly acquired one does not merit the same action.


You must then, however, consider the other side. Should a qualified, responsible, ideal candidate be rejected a job for the sole reason of having body modifications? Certainly the job position itself plays a role in this decision, and therefore there is no clear answer. For example, a general labor job may be more flexible with modifications than a customer service position. Regardless, some groups are still looking to get modifications covered by the EEO and a quick Google search will find many petitions attempting to do so.

Church of Body Modification

The Church of Body Modification is one group pushing to criminalize the discrimination of people with piercings and tattoos. Their vision statement reads:

As members of this Church, we envision living in a society where we are seen as an asset to our community, treated as equal to any non-modified person. We conceive of a time where we may practice our rituals and body modification without prejudice or discrimination. By acting responsibly and with integrity, we wish to observe our sincerely held religious beliefs without restriction.

The CBM states that they believe in and practice spiritual body modification. The problem with this is that it could be argued that members join the church in order to have their modifications covered under the religious base of the EEO.

The Question of Content

An important issue that must be considered, particularly in regards to tattoos, is the content of the piece in question. For example, I know of a woman who works as an elementary school teacher. She has a small tattoo of a star on her wrist and the administration has no objections to it. However, if the tattoo were of something else, or even if she lived in a culture where a star has a deeper meaning, the tattoo may not be acceptable.

Can there be a correct answer?

Ultimately the issue comes to personal preference and opinion. Some employers may be accepting of modifications, some may not. Some customers/clients may be accepting and some may not. This is a hotbed issue that may never be solved, because there is no solution that will please everyone.

I have tried to remain unbiased while writing this piece, because despite have tattoos and piercings myself, I am unsure how I feel about this topic. I would love to hear the opinions of others so please share them in the comments.

Do you believe the EEO should include body modification?

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    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

      Hi, fascinating subject and its something that I hadn't really thought about. Saying that though as someone with a tattoo on my upper arm I would hope that I could get any job based on the fact that it was my choice to have it done. I think a compromise should be met, for example covering up the tattoo when at work should not affect the client. Recently my brother had to go to a top solicitor for his new house, and she was very well dressed and professional, when we got to know her well she took off her jacket and she was covered in tattoos! lol! It made her seem more personal to me and we became friends while there, so as long as say a doctor or lawyer doesn't go to work covered in pins all over their face I don't think that there should be a problem, nell

    • davidlivermore profile image

      David Livermore 5 years ago from Bakersfield, California, United States

      The problem is that tats and piercings can affect a business. If I walk into a security company and see some guy tatted up with gang markings, with piercings all over, I am not going to want to hire my security through them. I'm less likely to trust an officer who has his face covered in tattoo's. So while it's unfair that these people can be discriminated against, looks do matter. If it becomes part of the EEO, then you will have officers showing up to your doorstep all tatted up from head to toe. Would you be 100% sure that the person is an officer of the law?

      I work with people have have tattoos. They keep them covered up - which is fine. I am not against hiring someone with tattoos, but in the line of work I am in, they need to be covered up.

      This will be a hard fight to get it in the EEO. People choose to mark up their body. Most of the EEO is about things you can't change or undo, it's how you are born.