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Mabcarian.jpg Michael V. Abcarian is the managing partner of labor and employment law firm Fisher & Phillips' Dallas office.

Summer Wardrobes May Reveal Too Much Including, For Some, Unwanted Tattoos


It is hot, hot, hot in Texas and many employers are left to decide whether to crank up the A/C, or relax the dress code policy and risk turning up the heat in the office with skimpier wardrobes that may show more than they want to see, including, for some, unwelcome tattoos.


The number of Americans sporting tattoos has risen dramatically in the last few years. In fact, a 2013 study by Pew Research Center shows that 14 percent of Americans now have at least one tattoo, and that statistic increases to 40 percent among adults ages 26 to 40.


“Addressing tattoos may be new territory for many employers,” said Michael V. Abcarian, managing partner of labor and employment law firm Fisher & Phillips’ Dallas office. “If tattoos are an issue for an employer, it is important they develop a policy based on the company’s best interests. Additionally, the policy may need to outline what is appropriate for different positions within the company. A no-visible tattoo policy may be appropriate for positions in customer service, but not for those who have no customer contact. Employers should also remember that some tattoos may have a religious affiliation, which may require an exception to the policy. Other than tattoos that have religious ties, tattoo and summer dress code policies should be consistently enforced for both men and women.”


If tattoos and summer hemlines cross the line between office-appropriate and too revealing, employers need to know what may be considered discriminatory behavior when enforcing dress code compliance.


Here are a few tips for employers as they decide how to handle their company’s summer dress code:

  • Have a written dress code policy detailing what is acceptable and unacceptable, with examples.
  • Communicate policies with all employees. It is often helpful to require employees to sign a form acknowledging the policies.
  • Consistently enforce policies; only make exceptions when you are compelled to do so in order to reasonably accommodate employees based on a protected class (religion, ethnicity, etc.). 
  • Enforce the same, or similar, policies for both men and women. If it is absolutely necessary to include different standards, make sure neither sex faces a greater burden.
  • If there is a need to address the wardrobe of the opposite sex, it is typically best to have a person of the same sex as the employee present in order to avoid liability.


Smart employers will communicate and implement policies before issues arise, lest a wayward employee claim that the rules unfairly target them.  When reviewing or forming a dress code, be sure it is reasonable, nondiscriminatory, and founded on legitimate business needs.  This way you can beat the summer heat, without getting burned by a cold employee.



About Fisher & Phillips LLP (

Fisher & Phillips LLP is a national law firm committed to providing practical business solutions for employers’ workplace legal problems. Labor and employment law is all the firm does, offering deep and broad knowledge and experience in the area of the law the attorneys know best. Fisher & Phillips attorneys help clients avoid legal problems, are dedicated to providing exceptional client service, and are there when you need them. The firm has 300 attorneys in 31 offices. In addition to Dallas, the offices are in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbia, Columbus, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Gulfport, Houston, Irvine, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Memphis, New England, New Jersey, New Orleans, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Tampa, and Washington, D.C.


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