Tattoos should not dictate whether a hiring manager says “yes” or “no.”

Someone might get a tattoo for a number of reasons. Sometimes it is a split-second decision, an image chosen based off something the person saw and liked. Perhaps the person wants to get a tattoo to commemorate an important person in their life. For many, a tattoo is a symbol of who they are they can proudly wear on their skin.

When it comes to being hired for a job, many people are looking for a position that involves being seen rather than being hidden away. People in fast food take orders in front of people and receptionists sit at front lobby desks all day. In many jobs people are “the face of a company” where they are seen by customers or clientele.

Most businesses and companies have tattoo policies for their employees. Many of these policies require people with visible tattoos to cover them, or may even decide not to hire someone who has visible tattoos.

Certain jobs do not require people to cover their tattoos. Bartenders, for example, are not always required to cover their tattoos, while a high school teacher may have to cover them. This, in a sense, suggests tattoos are negative, and people in a leadership or teaching position would be a bad example if they had visible tattoos.

Is a math teacher less effective if they have full sleeves of tattoos? Is a CEO any less hardworking with an orange leukemia ribbon on their forearm? Is the manager of KFC any less professional with a “Game of Thrones” dragon egg tattooed on their upper arm?

The answer is no. Tattoos mean something to the people who have them and being forced to cover them can feel like a form of oppression.

The clothes someone wears say a lot about them. Everyone has their own sense of style. Many jobs allow accessories and personal style while others have strict dress codes.

A person can change their clothes but when they have a tattoo they cannot change their skin. Jobs that keeps someone from expressing themselves through their clothes and tattoos strip people of what makes them unique. Not being hired because of tattoos is offensive. It is discriminating against someone with ink on their skin.

People get tattoos for a number of reasons. Maybe they just really liked Tinkerbell one Wednesday. Maybe “Doctor Who” changed their perspective of the world. Maybe their mother was their best friend. A tattoo is a way that a person can say “This is who I am” with their skin. Making someone cover it up is taking a piece of them away. Telling them they cannot be hired is like telling them who they are is not good enough.

A tattoo is not distracting. A tattoo is not trashy. A tattoo does not give a bad impression. Seeing a teacher with tattoos does not make them unintelligent. A manager with tattoos is not less professional.

If a tattoo is offensive then perhaps it should be hidden to help the company’s image and clientele who see it. But no one should be kept from getting a job just because they really loved their zodiac sign or a line from a Robert Frost poem.

Tattoos symbolize the person who has them, not the quality of their work or the quality of their character. No one should be kept from a job because of the images on their skin.