Tattoos and discrimination

tattoos and discrimination | tattoos and hiring

tattoos and discrimination

I’ve noticed several articles floating around about how jobseekers with visible tattoos shouldn’t be discriminated against when it comes to hiring. One article I read said that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be expanded so that inked individuals are protected from workplace discrimination. Huh? We inherit our race, gender and national origin at birth and the last time I checked, getting a tattoo is a choice.

Now before you go berserk and jump to the comments to rant about how you should be judged by your talent and skills, not your appearance, please humor me and let me explain.

First impressions and perception
For the sake of clarity, visible tattoos are ones that you can’t hide — the ones climbing up your neck and chest or on your face and hands. I’m not referring to the ink that’s easily hidden by clothing or by rolling down your sleeves.

When it comes to first impressions, do you know how much your skills matter if you have visible ink? I don’t. I do know that you can’t assume the tattoos won’t be distracting. More important, you can’t predict or control the biases and judgments that others may make about you.

I wanted to write this post for the same reason I wrote this post telling women not to wear giant bling to a job interview. When you put yourself in a position to be judged by others, you give away your power to be noticed only for your skills and expertise. Instead, you risk being in the critical eye of someone who perceives you inaccurately.

There are jobs outside of the Corporate America office where it’s perfectly fine for workers to have visible tattoos. If you do a physical labor job, work at home or bouncer/security guard just to name a few. I’m sure the music and art industry are fine with visible ink as well.

Ink and success
People get tattoos for various reasons — whether it’s honoring a loved one or simply self expression — it’s a personal decision and I get that. While I believe we’ll see a shift at work towards tattoo acceptance, it’ll be slow. And even if the company you work for is cool with your ink, customers may not be okay with it — which adds another challenging layer to the issue.

One of the articles I read was from a medical website and a doctor being interviewed said he believed that if he had tattoos and piercings that his patients wouldn’t take him seriously, and that patients are more apt to comply with the instructions of physicians who look professional, which leads to better health outcomes. He also said that your label — your brand — can impact your ability to get referrals for new patients.

In a perfect world we’d all work in an environment where people don’t judge each other based on appearance and enjoy a culture that embraces diversity. But as long as we have humans at work, we can kill the idea of ever having a non-judgmental workplace.

Bring it.


Photo credit: someecards

SCOTUS is not controlling your uterus

Unconventional HR Blog: SCOTUS is not controlling your uterus


Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby, who has strongly held religious beliefs, is not required to provide a full range of contraceptives at no cost to their employees pursuant to the Affordable Care Act.

When I heard about this, my first reaction was what if the employees do not hold the same religious views as their employer?  It doesn’t seem right and why should they have their company’s views rammed down their throats.  Then the HR pro in me thought — this is a privately held company. They believe this portion of the ACA mandate violates their First Amendment right that protects religious freedom. It’s their business — why can’t they have a say in the benefits being offered?

The initial media panic was that this ruling will set precedence for other corporations to be able to opt out of providing any form of birth control.  Not really. The ruling applies to small, privately owned companies with at least 50% of stock held by five or fewer people in which the owners have clear religious beliefs.

Hardcore feminist groups are completely unhinged and probably knitting uteri as we speak so they can ramp up their armies in protest.  I even read one headline that said, “BREAKING: SCOTUS Decides Corporations Have Religious Liberty, Women Do Not in Choosing Birth Control.”

Oh please. Spare me the drama.  This isn’t about taking away a women’s right to choose birth control. It’s about a company’s right to opt out of offering specific birth control that goes against their beliefs.

Then I read more about the ruling.  The operative words are:

full range of contraceptives

The contraception in the ruling that won’t be covered is the Plan B contraception (the “morning after” pill) and IUDs — 4 drugs specifically. Of the 20 mandated birth control drugs, the company is covering 16 of them. The ones that are not covered aren’t being ripped from pharmacy shelves nor have they been deemed illegal. Women still have access to them — just not for free if they work for Hobby Lobby.

In the past, birth control wasn’t covered by insurance plans — it was all out of pocket because it wasn’t deemed “medically necessary.”  Thank goodness insurance plans started to evolve and contraception started to be covered. Still, employers were able to decide if they wanted contraception coverage under the RX portion of the plan.  Of course back then the decision was based more on the cost and company demographics. Or was it?

But what this is about is whether companies like Hobby Lobby have the right to decline offering these types of contraception to its employees if they believe it violates their religious beliefs.  Wear the shoes of the business owner. Do you think business owners should have a say in what they’re required to offer to their employees?  After all, Hobby Lobby can drop insurance entirely and stop offering it to employees. It would certainly put them at a hiring disadvantage but it’s an option.

If this ruling spreads to other companies with religious owners, job seekers should take note:  If you’re interviewing with a company, be sure to get their health insurance plan specs prior to accepting an offer.

Last but not least, if you work for Hobby Lobby and aren’t happy with the ruling, move on and work for someone else.

Bring it.


Kimberly Patterson

Unconventional HR 

A scary help wanted sign



clue sign 5.14


This cracked me up when I saw it.  It’s funny, right?  This isn’t a picture I found on an internet site.  I was driving home with my husband over the weekend and we pulled over to the side of the road so I could take this picture. a scary help wanted sign

I’m fortunate to live in a beach community and during this time of year, the island is waking up after a long winter.  The businesses are getting ready to start a new summer season.

So after I finished laughing at the sign I thought, “wow the owner must have had a high level of frustration with workers last year.”  This is a pizza place that hires part time workers who are mostly students.

Most kids covet a summer job at the beach.  In fact, by late June the jobs are either slim pickings or gone and the business owners keep a list of kids’ names on a wait list in case any of the workers they have leave.

I find this sign very telling about our young folks.  Scary and sad.

What do you think?

Personal note: I’ve worked with several startup companies that have plenty of Gen Y employees. I consider myself fortunate because I’ve had awesome experiences with the Gen Y folks at those organizations. 

Unconventional HR

Kimberly Patterson

Kimberly Roden

Why the GM congressional hearings are premature

why the GM congressional hearings are premature hr consulting 


When you’re having a bad day, be glad your name isn’t Mary Barra.  Can you imagine inheriting the problem that GM is facing? It’s beyond any work stress we can imagine.  Here you are, three months into a new job and smack-dab in the middle of a Congressional Hearing answering questions on why the actions, or lack thereof, by employees in your organization caused 13 deaths and an unknown amount of injuries.

The media is being critical of Barra and how she’s answering some of the questions with “that’s unacceptable,” to “that’s inconceivable,” to “we’re still investigating.”  I even read a news title that said she’s “dodging responsibility for recall flaws.”

One can argue that Barra has been with GM for years so she should have known — especially since one of her roles since 2011 was a Sr. Vice President responsible for the design, engineering, program management and quality of GM vehicles around the world. Perhaps. For now, Barra will not be able to answer these questions with any fact or substance and here’s why:

1. Delegation and autonomy

Work and projects are delegated through layers of org charts to corporate soldiers who are expected to get the work done.  So unless a leader is a micro-manager in a tiny company, it’s literally impossible for CEOs and high level execs, especially in a company the size of GM, to be aware of every decision being made by employees.  

Since leaders are human and different, some give more autonomy than others to their teams.  And yes, someone, somewhere dropped the ball in a big way.  What if there was a decision made by a front-line engineering manager that caused this mess and now that manager is no longer with the company?  That takes me to point #2. 

2. Investigations take time 

As I was listening to the hearing and reading about it, I was comparing it to the process of workplace investigations I’ve been involved in.  My experiences are microscopic compared to the gravity of this tragedy, but I’m all too familiar with the time, patience and diligence involved in drilling down for the truth, or the semblance thereof, in an investigation.    

Barra isn’t dodging responsibility or being vague — she’s telling the truth when she’s says, “I don’t know.”  Frankly, they need to bring Dan Akersthe former GM leader, into this investigation.  

It’s an unreasonable waste of time to put Barra in the hot seat now. Without the time to do an investigation, no one will be satisfied with her answers.

3. Identify the flaws to focus on prevention  

GM needs to figure out how this happened with hard facts.  Whether it was a process failure, communication failure or blatantly downplaying the significance of faulty equipment, they need to identify how this happened and why — all the way down to the manufacturing floor.  After knowing these details and the potential chain of events, only then will they be able to implement an improved quality control tool or process that will (hopefully) prevent a repeat of this event.

Just to reiterate, I am in no way saying that Barra and the GM employees are not accountable for putting faulty vehicles on the road — they certainly are.  And my heart goes out to the families who have lost loved ones in what now seems like an all too preventable fix. 

Banning ‘bossy’ is misguided

Banning ‘bossy’ is misguided


Have you heard about Sheryl Sandberg’s latest initiative?   Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and has launched a campaign to ban the word “bossy”.  She has gotten celebs, CEOs and politicians on board with her campaign.   Sandberg claims that this word hinders girls from growing up and pursuing leadership roles.

Sandberg tells her personal story about how a teacher called her bossy in ninth grade and that it hurt.  Let’s be real – any negative label would hurt a ninth grader – but clearly Sandberg got over it.

I think this campaign does absolutely nothing to help young girls and here are a few reasons why:

  • If someone is called “bossy” are they assertive?  Yes.  Are they opinionated?  Yes.  Are they determined?  Yes.  Are those traits good to have in a leader?  Yes!
    We want our young people to know the strength of these qualities so that they’re mentally equipped to manage life’s adversities when they launch into adulthood.
  • There’s an automatic assumption that all girls are fragile little beings who need to be coddled.  So if a girl is called bossy, it’ll be downhill from there.  Be sure to break the news to your 6-year old, who was called bossy for demanding her pencil back from the boy who swiped it, that she can kiss that CEO position goodbye.  Forgive the sarcasm but what a crock of a generalization to make of girls because of Sandberg’s own experience.
  • Sandberg says that the word “bossy” has harsh implications on impressionable minds.  Maybe or maybe not (see above point) but so does being called “arrogant”, “careless”, “irresponsible” and “aggressive”.  Let’s face it — any descriptive word with a negative connotation and message is unhealthy.
  • Not every girl (or boy) will grow up to be a leader.  Not everyone has the qualities to be a leader and not everyone wants to be a leader.  And that’s okay — the world needs non-leaders too.
  • Ban the word “bossy” and it will be a matter of time before a new and equally unattractive synonym takes its place.  Like “controlling”, “peremptory”, “oppressive” just to name a few.

Being an effective leader has unwritten rules that apply to women and men.  If you try to be liked by everyone or try to please everyone, you will fail.  An effective leader needs to be able to make unpopular decisions to be successful – which requires her to have courage, determination and fortitude.

Instead of word-banning campaigns, let’s have parents, teachers and mentors inspire our children to be strong – to keep moving forward when they fall, to safeguard themselves and their beliefs and to be confident in their abilities.

Strength, confidence and assertiveness – nice qualities for a boss!


Photo credit: Wikipedia