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"extreme" body art and fine dining

Can an owner/manager choose not to hire folks with alternative/extreme body art? Or is it/would be considered prejudicial/discrimination?

The art of ear gauging grosses me out. It is a visceral reaction and even when it is not at its most extreme it makes me nauseous to look at. I get that it is my issue and people can do what they want. Their bodies/their choice. Most the places I dine in are pretty traditional. The servers wear some kind of “uniform”, the front of the house is usually “dressed up”. Even the local, hole in the wall places are pretty traditional as well. But I also know that when I head into the city or go to more artsy areas it’s going to be something I am going to run into and I need to get over it.

Until recently I had never encountered any extreme body art (facial tattoos, visible facial/body piercings, ear gauging, etc) in a “fine dining” or “upscale” establishment. For those around this area I am talking about places like Tosca, Square Café, Clio, No. 9 Park, Craigie and the like. Have I just been there on the off nights and it is actually more common to see these things or do you think higher end places aren’t hiring people with extreme body art. Are they even allowed to do that?? I have seen regular ear piercings, including multiples, the occasional ankle/arm/wrist/leg tattoo (which not so long was considered "extreme") so Its seems like they couldn’t discriminate against one and not the other.

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  1. Thanks for bringing this up. It was immediately erased from the other thread.
    I think it's a great question and I have no idea :).

    1. Body art is not a protected class, so a business can choose to not hire someone based on their tattoos or other body art.

      1. Business owners can hire whoever they want. I own a business in a conservative industry and I am very careful when hiring. My personnel manual addresses appearance as well.

        On a personal note, I don't mind any extreme body art and think it looks great on many people. Just not in my business.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sedimental

          Interesting, thank you. Would you mind telling me how you handle it? If someone has tattoos but agrees to have them covered? if they remove their nose ring prior to arriving for work? If someone applied for a job with something that couldn’t be covered would you still except their application or tell them not to apply?

          (feel free not answer if I am being too nosey. I am just fascinated!)

          My old company got in legal trouble for requiring the associates to wear the company's brand of clothing unless the clothing was provided free of charge. It was still "encouraged" and I know managers who would not hire people they felt couldn’t "dress the part"-which also included how they wore their hair, makeup etc.

          1. re: foodieX2

            Sure, It is pretty easy...you just tell them. Literally, I tell them they need to appear business conservative/casual. Hair color in the natural spectrum, business casual clothes, no body art observable.

            If they smell like an ashtray, they will not make it in my office either. If they have questions about something, they can ask me. It is surprising how many young people don't have a definition of business casual or even understand what business phone etiquette is.

            I am willing to teach for a great young person willing to learn. The ones not willing to learn can go work somewhere else because I don't have time to make it a discussion or debate. I think I typify most business owners with my attitude. If I owned a coffee shop, I might seek out employees with cool tattoos and piercings! It is all about what the owner is trying to create in their business.

            I accept all resumes, 98 percent go into the trash anyway. I look up (the 2 percent that make the first cut) on facebook and YouTube. If they have public "idiot" photos or video, they go into the trash as well.

        2. Since the sort of body modification you describe is not a protected class, it's not "discrimination" to not hire someone based on it.

          I'd be surprised if there were any un-inked servers at Craigie, but I tend not to notice tattoos anymore unless they are facial ones.

          1 Reply
          1. re: LeoLioness

            At craigie you see load of upper arm tats as well as leg but I was specifically talking about what (today) is considered extreme-facial tats, facial piercings, etc. Things you can't avoid being confronted with or that can't be covered.

          2. I totally agree with "their bodies/their choice", but I also believe, in this instance, "my business/ my choice".

            1. I can see both sides of this. I have tattoos and don't particularly care if others do. That being said, I don't want to see someone's vulgar tattoo while eating. My employer recently (within the past couple years) instituted a tattoo policy- no new visible tattoos without prior approval and no facial/neck/hand tattoos at all. We also have policies on facial hair, earrings, hair color, and nail polish. I'd like to say that I'm in favor of people doing what they choose to their bodies but when I really think about it, I'm not if I have to look at it. Such a blow to my liberalism...

              3 Replies
              1. re: Hobbert

                Yeah Hobbert, liberalism sure ain't what it used to be....

                  1. re: Hobbert

                    I hear you! I was all set to write "I don't care about any of it" but truth be told, if a server had full-on facial tattoos, I'd be very uncomfortable.

                  2. A wedding boutique store, most likely, isn't going to hire a heavily tattooed woman to sell gowns. It really isn't going to enhance her business. The owner doesn't *dislike* tattoos or have anything against them, it's just that the tattoos don't fit her business.
                    A coffee house in downtown LA, with a clientele that's hip and creative, whose owner wants the edgy climate for his business will, in my experience, hire the heavily tattooed, body-pierced person.

                    1. Maybe I have lived in San Francisco too long (or long enough), but none of this bothers me. If a server is clean and odorless and seems willing to serve me, I am fine---even grateful. But you are entitled to your reaction and have the choice of frequenting an establishment, just as a businessperson has the choice of hiring people and enforcing dress and grooming standards. The free market works!

                      1. Issues related to tattoos and piercings are much more likely to arise with employees, not applicants. Employers should have a solid written personal appearance policy in place, and enforce it consistently. And on a related note - recently, while passing through a toll booth on I95, I saw a bumper sticker for a tattoo business that read, ‘Tattoos. They’re not just for hookers and sailors anymore.”

                        1. Foodiex2, I can tell you that the employer sets the tone for corporate culture. Many moons ago, while a college frosh, I worked as a receptionist in a fine establishment. The code for everyone...bussers, servers, hidden receptionist too, was this

                          --no visible tattoos. If you had them on your forearm, you wore longsleeves, etc.

                          --no piercings, except one set of earrings for women only, and these had to be simple gold or silver hoops no bigger in diameter than a nickel, or simple stud earrings.

                          --nails closely trimmed on both genders, and only "neutral" polish (clear, light pink, or beige) on the women

                          --clean, groomed, conservative hairstyles. If hair was dyed, it had to be to a "natural" shade--no Manic Panic, etc. If the woman had long hair, it had to be in a bun or a ponytail. No hair below the collar for guys.

                          --no heels higher than 2".

                          --no bracelets (ankle or wrist), no dangling necklaces. Acceptable rings were wedding sets, college/high school rings. No Sammy Davis, Jr. styles.

                          There were other rules, some I can remember and some I can't. For example, women who wore white blouses couldn't wear a bathing suit top (popular in summer) or, say, a black bra, under them.

                          In other words---no distractions. The show was the food. Not the personnel.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: pinehurst

                            I wish that was the case at a recent meal. The gal who inspired me to post this could not be avoided, to the point of where I doubt I will go back for fear of her being our server. Considering the rest of the atmosphere (that I was aware of) she stood out like a sore thumb. Made me wonder about the whole discrimination thing...

                            I can deal with tatoos (have a small one myself!), spikes, peircings, etc in many places. But facial ones or violent/ graphic ones on the arms/neck and ear gauging? Not when I am eating, thank you.

                            1. re: foodieX2

                              "I'm Moonshot and I'll be your server this evening."

                              1. re: grampart

                                nighmares. I will have nightmares.

                                1. re: grampart

                                  Hey, that is my 5 year old's pediatrician..... Not! Lol

                                  1. re: grampart

                                    I was going to post that I generally do not notice or mind tattoos, piercings, etc., as long as the server is clean and professional/friendly. Moonshot, however, would not be welcome sight for me when eating out.

                                  2. re: foodieX2

                                    And even if you LOVED facial tattoos, it's a visual distraction that takes away from the experience of the meal, in a similar manner that hacking diners at the table next door, or a server drenched in cologne would.

                                    The food...and if it's fine dining, the ambiance...should be the star. Not Moonshot's (thanks for the visual, grampart) body art.

                                2. "Or is it/would be considered prejudicial/discrimination?"

                                  It's completely prejudicial and discriminatory. It's just presently not illegal. Kinda like not hirin' someone who's ugly or has acne scars - it's just a d*ck move.

                                  19 Replies
                                  1. re: MGZ

                                    If ugly folk couldn't work, I'd be homeless.

                                    "it's just a d*ck move"
                                    So people with facial/body modification don't bother you as your server?

                                    I'll be honest, just like the OP, the ear gauging thing, really grosses me out. To each their own, but it does turn my stomach to see. Don't know why.....I'm not a squeamish kinda guy, I just don't like it.

                                    1. re: jrvedivici

                                      "So people with facial/body modification don't bother you as your server?"

                                      No. Unless you're talkin' about plastic surgery borne purely outta vanity.

                                      1. re: MGZ

                                        Getting a sense of "extreme need" versus "I want this and screw anyone that has a problem with it". Some shaky contrast going on here.

                                        1. re: grampart

                                          I know I was bein' flippant, but my point was basically "what's the difference between a perfectly healthy woman gettin' a boob or nose job since they think it would improve their looks and gettin' a tatoo?" Aren't they both self improvements in the eye's of the person doin' it?

                                          1. re: MGZ

                                            I suppose if "need" is defined in a way that includes some kind of psychic want, then whether boobs, ass, piercings, or tats, it's all the same. Probably right!

                                            1. re: grampart

                                              Yes, it's the age old "Tramp Stamp vs. Fake Boobs" debate . . . .

                                            2. re: MGZ

                                              Whoa......let me go on record as saying, my comments were more or less strictly based on that ear gauging thing.

                                              Boob's I have NO problem with. (for the record)

                                              Tat's I have no problem with........

                                              But nose rings I do have a sanitary concern with (most likely unsubstantiated) and that ear gauging thing {{aaaack.....I just gagged thinking about it}} freaks me out. {{thinking about boob's again................ahhhhh all better now.}}

                                              1. re: MGZ

                                                People consider tats as a form of personal expression, whereas a boob job, not so much.

                                                1. re: MGZ

                                                  Yes I am sure both parties think of them as improvements however unless done in the extreme (or executed poorly) your *average* nose/lip/boob job is not as immediately noticeable as even the simplest facial tat, piercing or ear gauging.

                                                  I would compare Mr Pin head there to say, that cat woman or the gal who is trying become Barbie-extreme and distasteful at any time, even more so when dining.

                                                  1. re: foodieX2

                                                    For those of us that work in certain legal fields or in law enforcement, we know how to spot a certain color ink that denotes a prison stay, or certain head and neck tats that signify gang affiliation or certain sloppy tats that signify a lapse in judgement or consciousness that come from a drug involved lifestyle.. Those tats are expensive and difficult to remove when the affiliation/ lifestyle is gone.

                                                    Seriously, I always check out head and neck tats, but I realize the general public doesn't have a clue about a lot of that.

                                          2. re: MGZ

                                            Are you talking specifically about restaurants? or other places of business that have been mentioned?

                                            There was a big case around here recently with Mary Lous Coffee being discriminatory in only hiring cute/young woman. http://www.myfoxboston.com/story/1861...

                                            I tried to find the outcome via google and coudn't.But if age was a factor I beleive that is a protected class?

                                            1. re: foodieX2

                                              Ugly people, the obese, and even homosexuals are not deemed protected classes for US Civil Rights Law purposes. Age is. See, e.g, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protecte...

                                              1. re: foodieX2

                                                Yes, age and gender are both protected classes.

                                              2. re: MGZ

                                                It has nothing to do with acne scars or being ugly. Not in the same category. Body art and hair art is a choice.

                                                ......we all make choices.

                                                iMO, It is only a d ck move if you discriminate against someone about something that is not their choice and would not interfere with their ability to do their job.

                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                  But being unattractive does interfere with people doing their jobs if they work in certain professions. Most bars hire attractive people, men and women and I am sure it drives business.

                                                  1. re: MVNYC

                                                    Sure, within certain parameters, but to focus on only hiring tall blondes for your bar (or a Hooters kind of establishment).........it is your right to create the kind of environment to attract the type of clientele that you want.....but that is a d ck move IMO. It might attract d ck customers as well. It is still about choices.

                                                  2. re: sedimental

                                                    I appreciate the distinctions that you're drawing. The are quite reasonable. But, where then do we categorize fat people? Arguably, for most, that is the result of a choice (or many choices, I spose).

                                                    Personally, and intelectually, I think prejudice against anyone based upon their appearance is wrong. Nevertheless, so as not to be a hypocrite, I admit that I have likely done it myself - consciously or sub.

                                                    1. re: MGZ

                                                      I have no trouble hiring overweight people. I have a very overweight person working for me now. I make the distinction there about them being able to do their job. Maybe if I was hiring a yoga instructor....no, or a fitness trainer...no, but if they can move easily around an office...no problem.
                                                      Actually, I would consider most Americans as "overweight" , so that would be a norm :)

                                                    2. re: sedimental

                                                      sedimental, you have captured the essence of the issue, IMO. It is a choice on the part of a person to get a tattoo, piercing, gauaging, etc. It is not a choice to be born homely or have severe acne or other imperfections that may be visually distracting.

                                                  3. <Or is it/would be considered prejudicial/discrimination?>

                                                    Only *if* the owner of the business told the potential employee that he/she doesn't like tattoos, body piercing, etc. and that's why they're not being hired.
                                                    If the owner explains that it's not part of his business vision, then it's not prejudicial or discriminatory and certainly, under the guidelines of how it's portrayed and presented, not enforceable.

                                                    1. I am a bit torn on this as I am pretty liberal when it comes to this sort of thing. But in the end, I think it falls in the section of things like dress code. Just like many businesses require their employees to dress a certain way (ie no jeans, men have to wear ties... heck even some really corporate places still require women to wear pantyhose if they are wearing a skirt), they can require them to not have body art or extreme piercings, or crazy hair or whatever.

                                                      But foodie, I'm with you on the ear gauging. Totally grosses me out. I also can appreciate tattoos as art, and many are gorgeous, but some tattoos I've seen are totally classless.

                                                      1. An employer definitely can set a policy as to how they want their employees to present themselves while on the job, including no visible tattoos, gauges, etc. Where they will run into trouble (and they should) is if they administer their policy inconsistently (i.e., the hot young chickie with a visible tattoo above her well-endowed bust is okay but the middle-aged plain woman with a small tattoo on her ankle is not okay).

                                                        As a customer, I am okay with some visible tattoos and mild piercings but I get grossed out by barbells on the face, guaged ears, multiple facial piercings, etc. And elaborate tattoos that cover a whole appendage, the chest, or any part of the face/neck are very distracting. I definitely wouldn't enjoy having a server in a high-end restaurant displaying some of the above.

                                                        I take my daughter to a dentist our whole family loves. He has a wonderful office staff, however one of his hygienists is extremely pierced and tattooed, and it is very visible. She is super-sweet and very competent, but it really takes me back every time I see her in his office. It just doesn't fit with my idea of a clean, professional medical/dental office.

                                                        BTW, it is official, I have now become old and unreasonable (just like I used to think my parents were). Shoot me now.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: jlhinwa

                                                          "An employer definitely can set a policy as to how they want their employees to present themselves while on the job, including no visible tattoos, gauges, etc. Where they will run into trouble (and they should) is if they administer their policy inconsistently (i.e., the hot young chickie with a visible tattoo above her well-endowed bust is okay but the middle-aged plain woman with a small tattoo on her ankle is not okay)"

                                                          --That, exactly.

                                                        2. Businesses have the right to set whatever standard they want for their business. Given that many top chefs have tattoos and piercings, I wouldn't avoid a place that does and places like Disney that have sterile standards aren't exactly known for good food. As this thread shows, we all have different standards and while guys might intentionally go to Hooters or a strip club for the boobs, I wouldn't no matter how good the wings are.