A Starbucks employee says she could be fired for a small hand tattoo she claims to have had since starting to work at the coffee chain five years ago. 27-year-old Kayla from Rochester Hills, Michigan had been very happily employed by Starbucks for several years when one day, she was told that she either had to get rid of it or find a new job:
“What I was told by my manager and my district manager was that you have 30 days to begin a removal process for the tattoo or you must resign from your job.”
This is the tattoo in question:
“Out of respect for our partners’, who we refer to as our employees, privacy we do not discuss individual employee details. I can tell you that our tattoo policy states that partners cannot have visible tattoos.“
The sad thing is that Kayla genuinely seems to love working as a “partner” at Starbucks, so she desperately doesn’t want to get fired. In this hilariously jumpy broadcast from My Fox Detroit, she says they have “health benefits, dental, vision, they offer 401K plans, retirement plans, we get stocks”; naturally, she does not want to make an exit all because of a small hand tattoo and feels it is unjustified since she’s been working there so long. And as somebody with a fair amount of tattoos and a few facial piercings, I was initially inclined to side with her.
When people say the phrase, “You know those are permanent, right?” with regard to my tattoos, I sort of want to scream. Obviously I know that they’re permanent; I figured that out long before they didn’t wash off when I hopped in the shower post-session. Still, there are many people–often younger ones–who do not realize that tattoos could severely impact your ability to find work depending on your job field. Remember that 18-year-old who let her tattoo artist boyfriend inscribe his name on her face after one day of knowing each other? Yeah, that’s on her face. Forever.
Yes, Kayla’s tattoos is tiny and unoffensive, but that doesn’t mean Starbucks has to be okay with it. Plus, is there really an unbiased way of writing “if your tattoo’s cute and fairly small and isn’t an effing Swastika, then yeah, you’re cool” in the manual? Not really, no. Whether you like tattoos or not, a business is well within their right to ban them.
It’s one thing to refuse to hire somebody because of their tattoos, but a somewhat different one to fire them after five years of employment with that policy already intact. That said, it is a choice to be tattooed–particularly in often visible spots like your hands, wrists, chest, neck or forearms–and when you opt to get one, you have to deal with the consequences that might come from it. Obviously people should be respectful towards you (that means no touching, Guy In Bar Who “Just Wanted To Read” My Leg), but employers are by no means obligated to be understanding, empathetic, or non-discriminatory towards people with tattoos. Whether you’re getting a tattoo of your favorite lipstick color, making a tribute to an awesome TV show, or just sharing one with your BFF, it’s important to acknowledge that you might wind up facing consequences later on.