Locals looking for a job may want to think twice before getting new ink or piercings, based on policies and opinions provided by local employers and professionals.
Whether they're teaching in the Altoona Area School District or working behind the counter at Sheetz, employees in a variety of jobs in the area are not permitted to have visible tattoos or body piercings.
"People have been getting tattoos for centuries," said Monica Jones, public relations manager for Sheetz, when asked if she saw more tattoos and piercings on the younger or older work force. "I don't think it's something new on the scene, or something that's going away. I can't see a spike or decline in that kind of self-expression."
Because of that steadfast form of self-expression, Sheetz holds all of its employees to the policy of no visible tattoos or body piercings while on the clock. Women are only allowed one earring per ear, which can only be of a certain size.
Jones said this policy not only has to do with food safety, but it limits the amount of "trigger points" that could potentially upset customers.
"If we ask our employees to keep those things covered when they're on duty, we don't have to monitor what some people find offensive," Jones said. "We want to provide an environment where people of all different walks of life feel comfortable."
To keep everything consistent, Jones said there are no exceptions made for this policy. Tattoos and piercings that would be hard to cover up may be the differences between hiring someone or not in some cases, Jones said. She added that most potential and current employees are happy to uphold the policy.
The same strict no-show policy applies for any employee of the Altoona Area School District - including teachers, administrators and anyone else a student may come in contact with.
"It has always been our district's expectation that we are role models for our students," said Margaret McMinn, the school district's human resources director. "Our image is how our employees speak, act and look. We're teaching our students much more than reading and writing, so we always stress professionalism."
A nose stud or a wrist tattoo wouldn't make or break the hiring of a potential employee, McMinn said, as long as they were willing to uphold the expectation of the policy and cover up. Other school districts may not even have a dress code, McMinn added, but upholding theirs is of the utmost importance.
"When you're walking through our hallway, you should never wonder who's a student and who's a staff member," McMinn said. "It should never be a mystery."
Altoona Regional Health System has a similar cover-up policy implemented within its dress code that took about two years to draw up, said Gary Naugle, senior vice president for human resources. Hospital officials met with employees and negotiated with unions to ensure the policy would be something employees could abide by.
Naugle said the policy helps to safeguard the "overall image we're trying to present." But the hospital has been hiring a young work force - mostly recent college graduates - and tattoos and piercings seem to be trending higher with the younger generation, Naugle added.
"We recognize that's what's going on with young people right now," he said. "That's OK, but when you come to work, that's what we want you to look like. When you leave, you can put the earrings back in and take the patch off of the tattoo."
Like other area employees, Naugle said hospital workers have been receptive to the policy and there haven't been any problems.
If image is important to employers, then having a strict, no exceptions policy is important, said attorney David Andrews, who practices in Hollidaysburg.
"From a legal perspective, it is perfectly permissible for employers to regulate appearance," he said.
Andrews has drawn up such policies for employers himself, and said strictness can and should be adjusted depending on the nature of the job and the customers being served.
With current trends the way they are, temp agencies like Manpower in Altoona find about half of their job seekers have tattoos and piercings, said Megan Hosband, a staffing specialist. But she added that most employers they deal with are providing factory and clerical work, and it seems to be less of a problem to have visible body art on the job site.
"Not too many are concerned about it," she said. "Most people we work with don't mind it."
Hosband said she thinks Central Pennsylvania may be a more relaxed region when it comes leniency with tattoos and piercings, but nationally it is probably something many companies would be concerned about.
If a job seeker is worried about visible tattoo or piercing when entering a new work environment, Hosband said she does recommend they cover up until they know the potential employer's exact policies.
"We do tell them to keep it under wraps to look a little more professional," she said. "It's better safe than sorry."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.