What , when and where is body-art okay, explains labor law expert Erwin Fuchs

Whether or not they look aesthetically pleasing, they can be discussed excellently in individual cases, such as in the forum of a STANDARD video. It is clear: tattoos have become mainstream. Almost a quarter of Austrians are tattooed, according to a study published in 2016 by the Imas Institute. When looking for work and at work, they would not have it easy, often discriminated against, complain affected. What is the employer allowed to prescribe anyway? Which “Peckerl” are okay when? Tattoos fall under employment law under the range outfit or clothing, thus under the outward appearance, says Erwin Fuchs, independent lawyer (Northcote right). So far, there are relatively few court decisions concerning this area.

US Military tattoo regulations

The case of the pink hair band

A sensational case was that of Ali K., bus driver with the Linzer lines. K. was dismissed because he wore a pink hair band – despite the parenting time and the associated better job security. “He turned against the employer’s instruction that he was not allowed to wear a pink hair band on duty, and the employer argued that it could damage the company’s image,” says Fuchs. In the third instance, the Supreme Court (OGH) finally ruled that interference by the employer in the employee’s personal rights requires good reasons – which are not the case here. “The reason was that most of the passengers also get on the bus when the bus driver wears a pink hair band.”


“No longer a stigma”

Similar are the regulations for piercings and tattoos. “During working hours, an employer can only prohibit it if, for example in the banking sector, a lot of customer contact is necessary and the seriousness suffers.” The definition of what can still be considered serious and what is not is, of course, not easy. Fuchs: “Society is changing, understated tattoos are no longer a stigma.” “No problem at all”, who wears subtle tattoos and can easily hide them. Even employees without customer contact would not have to worry, according to the labor law expert. “In the office, it does not matter if someone has a tattoo on his lower leg.” Likewise with piercings: “A tongue, nose or lip piercing will be completely indifferent to a call center agent.” It can be problematic for a bank employee. ” Then the employer could also give the instruction to take out the body jewelry at work.

Hugo Varney
Photographed at his office on Pall Mall in London on 14 October 2016.
Photo credit: Tolga Akmen

Possible reason for termination

For employees with a lot of customer contact, according to Fuchs: “If they are tattooed on non-conceal body parts, such as the face, or piercing and contradicting the industry customary occurrence, this may be a termination justification ground.”