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Thread: Should anti-tattoo discrimination be illegal?

  1. #16
    Hall of Fame Member Howe_zat's Avatar
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    Here's the thing: 'looks like a ****' is a pretty horrendous reason to not give someone a job. The reason it happens is because employers in the service industry generally presume that customers have the intelligence of a goldfish, and so they decide that a customer who sees a tattooed employee will immediately think of them as rude, violent, or - horror - working class. I don't think that the assumed prejudices of the worst people are the best basis for an employment criteria and it's reasonable to expect the law to do something about it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sledger View Post
    Come on, discriminating on the basis of race or sexuality is completely different to doing so on the basis of whether or not somebody has a tattoo, and you know it.
    I agree with you -- but where does that distinction come from? What's the logic? Where is the line drawn?

    Ok, let me rephrase it a little differently. The thrust of anti-discrimination legislation as a thing is to prevent decisions from being made on anything other than an individual's qualifications and merits for that position. A tattoo is related to neither. Given that is the philosophical underpinning of the legislation, why should tattoos be treated differently to any other characteristic, when they plainly do not affect an individual's ability to do a job?

    Your initial argument basically boiled down to "if the employer doesn't like Characteristic X, he has the right not to hire that person". That logic can equally be applied to things as trivial as the shape of an individual's nose, their fashion sense or their hair colour, to something as broad as their sexuality, gender or skin colour. Where does the philosophical distinction lie?
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    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan View Post
    I agree with you -- but where does that distinction come from? What's the logic? Where is the line drawn?

    Ok, let me rephrase it a little differently. The thrust of anti-discrimination legislation as a thing is to prevent decisions from being made on anything other than an individual's qualifications and merits for that position. A tattoo is related to neither. Given that is the philosophical underpinning of the legislation, why should tattoos be treated differently to any other characteristic, when they plainly do not affect an individual's ability to do a job?
    Is this really the rationale for this type of legislation? You might be able to infer such a meaning if you read between the lines, but I am fairly certain that none of the UK's legislation, nor the EU legislation on which various UK statutes are based, on these matters actually says this. As far as I can see, the explicit purpose of such legislation, according to the legislators anyway, is to ensure that discrimination on the basis of the various grounds they have identified is outlawed. These grounds generally being things that are beyond individual control, such as race and sexuality and so on. The terminology used in the recitals of these laws isn't close to being as widely worded as you've suggested. Admittedly I have no idea what other such legislation from other corners of the world say in this regard.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan View Post
    Your initial argument basically boiled down to "if the employer doesn't like Characteristic X, he has the right not to hire that person". That logic can equally be applied to things as trivial as the shape of an individual's nose, their fashion sense or their hair colour, to something as broad as their sexuality, gender or skin colour. Where does the philosophical distinction lie?
    Well, it didn't really boil down to that at all. My post explicitly referred to "tattoos". There was nothing implicit in anything I said that suggested an employer should be able to discriminate based on race, gender or sexuality.
    Last edited by sledger; 18-08-2014 at 05:08 AM.

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    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    In any event, I would query the notion that having a tattoo does not impinge on an individual's ability to perform a certain job/role. Plenty of hospitality/professional/customer-facing roles require the ability to strike up a rapport and engage with people. Given the fact that plenty of people may find tattoos to be repugnant, untidy or unsightly, having a tattoo would, or at least could, impact heavily on someone being able to perform their required duties to a satisfactory level. For instance, I suspect plenty of employers couldn't give a crap about tattoos per se; the bulk of their concerns will usually be based on perceptions of what their clients and customers might think.


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    International Debutant dermo's Avatar
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    wonder if pews will go with the rights of the individual or the rights of the business
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    The same argument could be applied to black people 60 years ago. You shouldn't be penalised because of people's misconceptions.

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    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RossTaylorsBox View Post
    The same argument could be applied to black people 60 years ago.
    No, it could not. This is a ridiculous statement.

  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by sledger View Post
    There was nothing implicit in anything I said that suggested an employer should be able to discriminate based on race, gender or sexuality.
    I'm not for a second attempting to imply that you, by proxy of your statement, support discrimination on any of those grounds. If it came across that way I truly apologise; it was not my intent at all.



    I'm trying to establish where the line should be drawn -- what can we discriminate based upon, and what can we not discriminate based upon? Is it related to choice? Some subjective code of public decency? Or is it exclusively those things related directly to merit?

    If we disallow discrimination on the basis of tattoos, what about gang-related or offensive tattoos? If a highly-qualified neo-Nazi (an oxymoron if there ever was one) applies for a job, shouldn't an employer be allowed to tell him to go elsewhere?

    I think the employer should have that right, and I don't think that's particularly controversial.

    On the other hand, is a young teacher genuinely impaired in his ability to do his job because he has the name of his late grandfather tattooed on his shoulder? Is a cancer survivor suddenly less capable of looking after children because she has a tattoo of an cancer charity ribbon?

    As it stands currently, the answer to those previous two examples is yes (both are friends of mine, ftr), and both have to go to lengths to ensure that some ink on their skin isn't held against them. I don't think the tattoo has anything to do with their ability to do their job, or should affect their employment prospects.

    The wide diversity in what tattoos mean, how overt they are, and how they are culturally perceived means it isn't a simplistic issue, and I think your original response missed a lot of the nuance related to real-world manifestations of this.

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    Hall of Fame Member Marcuss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan View Post
    If a highly-qualified neo-Nazi (an oxymoron if there ever was one)
    Ummm, I'm not sure that word means what you think it means, or are at least using it to mean

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    Hall of Fame Member Howe_zat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sledger View Post
    In any event, I would query the notion that having a tattoo does not impinge on an individual's ability to perform a certain job/role. Plenty of hospitality/professional/customer-facing roles require the ability to strike up a rapport and engage with people. Given the fact that plenty of people may find tattoos to be repugnant, untidy or unsightly, having a tattoo would, or at least could, impact heavily on someone being able to perform their required duties to a satisfactory level. For instance, I suspect plenty of employers couldn't give a crap about tattoos per se; the bulk of their concerns will usually be based on perceptions of what their clients and customers might think.
    What if you live in area where you think your potential customers won't strike up a rapport with, say, Muslims?

  11. #26
    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan View Post
    I'm not for a second attempting to imply that you, by proxy of your statement, support discrimination on any of those grounds. If it came across that way I truly apologise; it was not my intent at all.



    I'm trying to establish where the line should be drawn -- what can we discriminate based upon, and what can we not discriminate based upon? Is it related to choice? Some subjective code of public decency? Or is it exclusively those things related directly to merit?

    If we disallow discrimination on the basis of tattoos, what about gang-related or offensive tattoos? If a highly-qualified neo-Nazi (an oxymoron if there ever was one) applies for a job, shouldn't an employer be allowed to tell him to go elsewhere?

    I think the employer should have that right, and I don't think that's particularly controversial.

    On the other hand, is a young teacher genuinely impaired in his ability to do his job because he has the name of his late grandfather tattooed on his shoulder? Is a cancer survivor suddenly less capable of looking after children because she has a tattoo of an cancer charity ribbon?

    As it stands currently, the answer to those previous two examples is yes (both are friends of mine, ftr), and both have to go to lengths to ensure that some ink on their skin isn't held against them. I don't think the tattoo has anything to do with their ability to do their job, or should affect their employment prospects.

    The wide diversity in what tattoos mean, how overt they are, and how they are culturally perceived means it isn't a simplistic issue, and I think your original response missed a lot of the nuance related to real-world manifestations of this.
    Don't worry, there was no offence taken; no need to apologise.

    I see your point, but for me, I do not see the difference in judging someone on the basis that they show up for an interview with a tattoo and judging someone on the basis that they turn up for an interview wearing ripped jeans rather than a suit.

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    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Howe_zat View Post
    What if you live in area where you think your potential customers won't strike up a rapport with, say, Muslims?
    We've been over this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcuss View Post
    Ummm, I'm not sure that word means what you think it means, or are at least using it to mean
    You're quite right; brain fade.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sledger View Post
    No, it could not. This is a ridiculous statement.
    Sorry, should've quoted this:

    Quote Originally Posted by sledger View Post
    In any event, I would query the notion that having a tattoo does not impinge on an individual's ability to perform a certain job/role. Plenty of hospitality/professional/customer-facing roles require the ability to strike up a rapport and engage with people. Given the fact that plenty of people may find tattoos to be repugnant, untidy or unsightly, having a tattoo would, or at least could, impact heavily on someone being able to perform their required duties to a satisfactory level. For instance, I suspect plenty of employers couldn't give a crap about tattoos per se; the bulk of their concerns will usually be based on perceptions of what their clients and customers might think.
    "Black people can't be hired because our customers don't think highly enough of them" was probably a legit argument. In both cases the decision to employ someone is based on societal prejudice rather than the actual ability of the employee.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan View Post
    I agree with you -- but where does that distinction come from? What's the logic? Where is the line drawn?

    Ok, let me rephrase it a little differently. The thrust of anti-discrimination legislation as a thing is to prevent decisions from being made on anything other than an individual's qualifications and merits for that position. A tattoo is related to neither. Given that is the philosophical underpinning of the legislation, why should tattoos be treated differently to any other characteristic, when they plainly do not affect an individual's ability to do a job?

    Your initial argument basically boiled down to "if the employer doesn't like Characteristic X, he has the right not to hire that person". That logic can equally be applied to things as trivial as the shape of an individual's nose, their fashion sense or their hair colour, to something as broad as their sexuality, gender or skin colour. Where does the philosophical distinction lie?
    The distinction has to be whether the point being discriminated for/against actually impacts on an individual's ability to do a job rather than how much choice someone has over whatever it is.

    A lot of people go down the line of logic that says you don't have any choice over your race/sexuality/gender and therefore you shouldn't be discriminated against on those grounds. This strikes me as illogical because you also don't have any choice over being born with lower intelligence and thus being less competent for most jobs than someone born with higher intelligence. I'm sure none of us seriously advocate banning discrimination on the grounds of intelligence/competence for a certain job though.

    As Sledger has pointed out, there are jobs involving dealing with the public where tbh I would imagine having certain styles of visible tattoo would impact significantly on your ability to do that job. It would be disingenuous to deny that at least some people don't like some styles of tattoo and that some prejudging of the person with the tattoo would take place. Possibly that shouldn't be the case, but it is.

    In essence I don't think there is any fundamental difference between discriminating against a tattoo and discriminating based on race. I can see hypothetical scenarios where I think both are fine or both are wrong. In practical terms though in today's world I can see several sorts of mainstream job whereby having a tattoo would be a drawback. I don't see that being the case with stuff like race these days in any mainstream job in the UK at least, because most people are far better educated on stuff like this than they were 100 years ago.
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