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Man With Full-Body Tattoo Kicked Out of Grocery Store–Is This Discrimination?

Elle Silver

Keith Gordon, a man whose entire body is covered in tattoos–even his face–was shopping for food in a market with his family when he was told by an employee that he wasn't welcome in the store. Gordon was shocked–and angry.

"It's my body, my choice, and his behavior was discriminatory in all senses of the word,” he said of the experience.

Lucky Diamond Rich also has tattoos all over his body and face and even holds the Guinness World Record for being the most tattooed person on earth. He was on vacation in New York City when a man approached and told him he was the devil.
Lucky Diamond RichPhoto by hypersapiens

Rich was less miffed by the situation than Gordon was. Speaking on the I’ve Got News For You podcast, he said, "I was in there buying shoes with my girlfriend at the time, and [a guy] just absolutely lost it. The security came and they got rid of him. Whatever people think of me is none of my business, and I don’t need praise either or adulation."

Still, the experiences of these two men beg the question: do people with tattoos face discrimination?

Of course, these two men are not the norm. Most people with tattoos don’t have them all over their bodies, at least not on their faces. And yet, even people with very few tattoos recount experiences with discrimination, especially in the workplace.

A woman was terminated from her job because of a small butterfly tattoo on her foot. The company said she had failed to cover it up, according to their policy. A mother-of-three with a tattoo on her forearm was dismissed as a waitress after customers complained. Another employee was forced from his job because his employers disapproved of his eighty tattoos.

Not only are people fired for their tattoos, but the Colorado State University College of Business researched the issue and found that visible tattoos make it harder to get a job in the first place. The research also found that if tattooed individuals are hired, they're offered less for their initial salaries.

This sounds like discrimination and yet it’s not covered by any of the anti-employment discrimination laws now in place. Employment discrimination is classified as when your employer treats you differently based on race, color, religion, gender, national origin, disability, age, or genetic information. This does not include people with tattoos.

And yet, research clearly shows that people with tattoos are unfairly discriminated against. According to Dr. Chris Henle, the author of the Colorado State study, the legal environment is always evolving. She doesn't doubt that in the future, laws will protect people will tattoos. But as of now, that just isn't the case.

But will these protections include people like Gordon or Rich? We have the right to free speech and businesses have the right to refuse service to anyone. But it just doesn’t seem fair what these men have gone through only because they have a penchant for tattoos and their appearances shock some people.

Hopefully, more laws will be passed to protect people with tattoos from discrimination. What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.

If you liked this article, you may also like Why Do People Stay in Unhappy Marriages? "Marital Privilege" May Be the Answer.

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I write about dating, marriage, divorce, family, society, and the city I live in: Los Angeles.

Los Angeles, CA

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