Tattoo tolerance in the workplace

Nicole Tyler, a junior English major, shows off four of her nine tattoos. Tyler said she is used to being in front of important figures at Westminster for her many on-campus jobs but said she has never been asked to cover up her tattoos. Photo by Taeler Gannuscia.

Nicole Tyler, a junior English major, shows off four of her nine tattoos. Tyler said she is used to being in front of important figures at Westminster for her many on-campus jobs but said she has never been asked to cover up her tattoos. Photo by Taeler Gannuscia.

Some students at Westminster College said tattoos—a form of expression that has long been deemed inappropriate in professional settings—seem to be gaining acceptance in the workplace. However, it still remains a question mark for young professionals in Utah: will tattoos affect their advancement in the workplace?

“If you love tattoos and that is your way of expressing yourself, then it is important to find a place where they are okay,” said Briana Koucos, director of Westminster’s Career Resource Center. “The last thing you want to do is work somewhere where you don’t fit and that doesn’t align with who you are.”

Ryan LaRe, a Westminster junior and political science major, got their first tattoo a year and a half ago of a polar bear on their forearm. LaRe runs the democratic campaign for Doug Owens in Salt Lake City and said their employer doesn’t mind their tattoo. However, they said they always make sure to cover it as a precaution during meetings or when they are canvassing.

“When canvassing, you really don’t know what type of people will be at the door,” LaRe said. “I don’t want their focus to be on me or my tattoos but instead the candidates and voting. So it’s better to be safe.”

Nicole Tyler, a Westminster junior and English major, said she thought about future employment opportunities before making the decision to get inked.

“My extended family was really worried about it,” Tyler said. “They were like, ‘Be careful where you place it. You might not be able to get a job.’ And I was like, ‘You’re not going to give me a job because I have 15 minutes worth of ink on my wrist? Then maybe I don’t want to work with you.’”

Tyler said her tattoos serve as daily reminders that she can make it through tough times. She struggled to name her favorite tattoo but decided on the quote “I believe I can fly” on her forearm—a tribute to her mother, who passed away when Tyler was 15 years old.

“It was my first tattoo,” Tyler said, laughing. “I figured I would remedy the fact that she would probably kill me if I ever got a tattoo, but it’s for her!”


Tyler has three jobs on campus—she is the LGBTQIA program coordinator in Westminster’s Diversity and Inclusion Center, an assistant in the alumni office and a residential advisor in Behnken Hall. Although Tyler said she is used to being in front of important figures at Westminster, she said she has never been asked to cover up her tattoos and said she can confidently dress up for work events in a short sleeved black dress that shows the majority of her nine tattoos.

“I think that all of my bosses are really all about this freedom of expression thing and really enjoy that I am so outwardly doing so,” Tyler said.

Although students said they feel comfortable showing their ink at work after being hired, they said they always cover their tattoos during an interview—a practice Koucos recommended.

“As far as tattoos, earrings, and kind of facial jewelry, too, my advice is just know your audience,” Koucos said. “This is a really good kind of career trick overall. Know who and what [and] be aware of what the industry is.”

Koucos said industries that are more client-facing—such as banking, accounting and finance —might still have conservative views of tattoos. Since there is still a lot of gray area, she encouraged students to do their research before making the decision to get inked