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On a personal level, I totally agree with you. However as we have seen within this thread there are quite a few folks who WILL judge you by not only what kid of tattoos you have, but that you have them at all. Then there is the question of deciding which tattoos are acceptable under the rules and regulations; agreed that just about everyone with ink got it for a specific reason, but how do you decide which reason is "OK to display" and which are not? Is a "343" tattoo acceptable, is a star tattoo ok, how about the one of a skeleton with a join tin its mouth carrying a Rebel Flag? As soon as a department says one tattoo is "OK" while another isn't someone is going to cry foul.

The way for Fire Departments and other employers to avoid this dilemma is to dis-allow any visible tattoos in uniform. Got full sleeves? then you may have to find another place to work, or another line of work.

One key point you made about your tats is that they are not visible in uniform, and that is how they should be in a professional environment.

I don't know what came of it, but a few years ago the Marine Corps Commandant banned all new tattoos on Marines which were visible in short-sleeve uniform because Marines were having trouble getting jobs in Law Enforcement, Firefighting, EMS, etc when they left the Corps.

It may be stupid for you, but for others it goes against the way that they were raised and what their beliefs are. You are going into another persons house, should you not show some respect for their faith/teachings/beliefs?
You did great Greenman. I have not gotten a tattoo because I am terrified of needles. I almost knocked out an EMT because he kept trying to put an IV in my arm after an accident.
my best friend on my department is covered both arms and legs we go on a call he always is in his turn outs so they are covered in this job you shouldnt have them on your head or hands but everything or than those are fare game
I've been giving this topic a little thought and while I understand a department's desire to CYA by dis-allowing visible tattoos, and I think is a good policy if you're looking for a job, I don't think it is a reasonable position for a public agency to take.

A reasonable tattoo policy is more along the lines of the Army's tattoo policy, which allows visible tattoos as long as they are not "extremist, indecent, sexist or racist."

There are some of our customers (the public) who have moral or religious objections to tattoos, I understand that, and they should not get tattoos. There personal beliefs should not dictate to others whether they should or shouldn't get tattoos, and Fire Departments who cow-tail to that minority and create policies against visible tattoos are not very American; this isn't France after all.

Private employers can create whatever rules they want for their employees, so Rural-Metro knock yourself out with image rules if you want, but public entity employers are somewhat bound by the First Amendment of the United States, and so a standard such as the "No extremist, indecent, sexist or racist tattoos" standard is appropriate.

I believe in self-expression. I have one myself but, it's on my shoulder easy to hide. I do have to say however, they may look cool now, how is it gonna look when you are in your 60s and they are faded and blurry? That's my thought on tattoos. Personally I regret getting one. I got it when I was 15 to "fit in" and I'd like to get it removed but it's expensive and it was a home-job so it looks bad no matter how I approach it.
Your statement hits the nail on the head. I couldn't have said it better myself!
Why not get a professional tattoo that reflects the you of today and it will look good well into your later years because it is fresher than the faded old home job?

Just one idea...

but public entity employers are somewhat bound by the First Amendment of the United States,

Wanna bet?

Gov'ts can not violate an individual's rights as an individual. They can as an employee. Try using your freedom of speech sometime by telling your chief he is an idiot (or whatever term you'd like) or try storing contraband in your locker at the station and when found you're disciplined.

Employers--public or private--are not bound by all the Bill or Rights, within reason.

Your somewhat is very, very, very limited.
The key phrase you used was "within reason.” The U.S. Supreme court found in Water v. Churchill (1994) that, "the government has a lower obligation to respect constitutional rights when it acts as employer rather than as the sovereign." This certain affirms that there is some obligation to the Constitutional Rights of government Employees than you seem to assert.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2010 that, "The tattoo itself, the process of tattooing, and even the business of tattooing are not expressive conduct but purely expressive activity fully protected by the First Amendment."

Typically government employers can restrict employees' free speech or expression provided the regulation is narrowly tailored to meet an important government interest. While the government can make an argument that it has an important interest in prohibiting extremist, indecent, sexist or racist tattoos, the argument is stretched thin when attempting to ban all visible tattoos on government employees.

Since the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed in precise language that tattoos "are forms of pure expression that are entitled to full First Amendment protection," there is high bar to clear when attempting to limit a government employee's Constitutional Rights.

While all of this means nothing outside of the 9th's jurisdiction, the issue will eventually come up in other jurisdictions and eventually will be decided by the Supreme Court.

Bottom Line: If the government employer cannot explain how banning all visible tattoos meets an important government interest when a lesser regulation would accomplish that interest, then it cannot impose such a free speech ban on its employees. Where such a ban currently exists, and the employing government entity won’t or cannot explain the need for a total ban and won’t change it, the case will need to be taken up within the judicial system. So, if someone has not been hired, or has lost a job due to his or her tattoos, and they're not "extremist, indecent, sexist or racist," they should find a lawyer and begin the legal process of challenging the ban.

I’m not normally an advocate for being litigious, but sometimes that is the only way to right wrongs in our country. Eventually these overreaching bans on tattoos are going to cost cities and counties a lot of money in court costs.

There's actually a fairly large body of case law limiting just how much a government employer can limit employees' Constitutional Rights, most notably First Amendment rights.

By the way, you are a shining example of why public employees choose to unionize.


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