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October 21, 2014

Hennepin Co. deputy candidates rejected for tattoos

Ryan Stevens, 31, has two law enforcement degrees and a dream – to become a police officer. But the Richfield man also has tattoos on his arms, and that ink disqualified him and five others from jobs with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in a recent round of hiring, the Star Tribune reports.

Sheriff Rich Stanek’s two-year-old policy that limits tattoo visibility on new hires runs counter to a trend among some employers to be more forgiving of body art, which has become more popular with young adults, the newspaper reports. The issue exposes a generational divide: a 2008 Pew Research Center study revealed that roughly one in three people between ages 18 and 40 have at least one tattoo, the newspaper reports.

USA Today reported last year that about one in five Americans has a tattoo, and that while workplace attitudes may be shifting, there are still employeers who don’t want to hire tattooed workers.

A CareerBuilder survey of hiring managers found that tattoos were ranked third among the “personal attributes” that might prevent an employee from getting promoted (behind body piercings and bad breath).

Career coach Meredith Haberfield told Marketplace for a story on the issue that it’s best to cover up tattoos in interviews: “Each employer is going to vary from conservative to liberal when it comes to tolerance for their body art, so a good rule is to keep it covered in your interviews and even during your first few weeks in your job until you get a sense for the culture of the workplace.”

That wasn’t an option for the Hennepin County deputy candidates, who were asked upfront as part of the screening process about tattoos in a section on “grooming,” the Star Tribune reports.

A Facebook page dedicated specifically to the issue of tattoos in the workplace has 1.5 million “likes.”