NYC lawmaker wants to ban tattoo discrimination by employers
Tat’s all, folks?
Discriminating against tattoo-sporting employees and job applicants would be illegal under a new bill that Democratic New York City Councilman Shaun Abreu is planning to introduce this week.
The new legislation aims to prohibit employers, landlords and others in positions of authority from singling out people with tattoos as a precondition against hiring, promotions, signing a lease or granting other benefits.
“No New Yorker should face discrimination for having a tattoo when they are trying to get a job, housing, or public services,” Abreu, who represents West Harlem, told the Daily News. “Tattoos are a form of personal self-expression that, too often, incur bias and discrimination from employers, landlords and service providers.”
Abreu’s bill, which is co-sponsored by Council members Nantasha Williams, Justin Brannan and Kevin Riley, would put the onus on employers to justify ordering an employee to cover up a tattoo while on the job. In such scenarios, bosses would have to prove both that the absence of a tattoo is a “bona fide occupational qualification” and that there is “no less discriminatory means” of meeting that qualification.
The bill does allow for exceptions, though, but it does not specify what those might be in its current draft language. Instead, as now written, it leaves that up to the city Human Rights Commission, which the bill asserts would need to base any exceptions “on consideration of public policy.”
Despite, the lack of clarity in the bill itself, Abreu’s team offered one possible exception to the bill: tattoos containing hate speech, as “designated” by the Human Rights Commission.
The prohibition, if approved by the full Council and Mayor Adams, would not apply when in conflict with any pre-existing state or federal laws.
For Brannan, A Brooklyn Democrat who sports an array of his own tats, the bill is personal.
“As the world’s most tattooed City Council member — and feel free to check me on that — I can tell you with confidence: there is no reason it should be legal, in New York City, in 2022, to discriminate against someone for having a goddamn tattoo,” he said. “I sure hope I’m stating the obvious when I say it’s long past time we put this protection into law.”
Through the bill, Abreu intends to accomplish his goals through amending a provision in the city’s administrative code that’s focused more broadly on discrimination.
City, state and federal laws already protect employees against discrimination in the workplace, but not when it comes to tattoos. Under federal law, employers are forbidden from discriminating when it comes to race, age, religion and gender. New York State law includes provisions pertaining to marital status, sexual orientation, prior arrest and military status. City law includes provisions based on many of those characteristics too, as well as caregiver status and credit history
In a statement released to The News, and in the bill language itself, Abreu suggests a ban against tattoo discrimination could have religious undertones as well. In the statement to The News, his team notes that the bill “would clarify that a religious observance in employment includes having a tattoo.”
“It is time for the city to reject all forms of discrimination and codify protections for New Yorkers with tattoos,” Abreu added.