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Tattoos: A Word of Warning

Tattoos: A Word of Warning

Paul Lepore

Tattoos have been around for hundreds of years and will be around for hundreds more. In today’s society, tattoos are becoming more prevalent, and in some segments of our culture, more accepted.

The fire department is a paramilitary organization. There are standards for dress code and for conduct both on and off duty. As a general rule, firefighters are a pretty conservative group, especially the older firefighters.

A candidate should understand that having a tattoo may affect his or her chances of getting hired. If the artwork is small and tasteful, and not offensive to any racial group or society as a whole, it probably will not have any effect.

The more visible the tattoo, the greater the risk of affecting a person’s chances of getting hired. The mindset of the fire chief will also affect the individual’s chances. The more conservative the upper management, the less likely the department will hire a candidate with a tattoo. A department cannot legally disqualify a candidate for a tattoo, but it could certainly affect a candidate’s chances.

I recently spoke with a candidate whose left arm was sleeved with artwork from the top of his shoulder to 4 inches past his elbow. He understood that a firefighter’s job is to serve the citizens of the community in a professional manner. He was worried about how he would be perceived in the community.

He believed that his artwork was not inappropriate or lewd. He was not ashamed of it, and planned to get more in the future. He was confident that the department would never find out about his tattoo until his first day on the job. He reasoned that they wouldn’t see his tattoo during the physical agility test if he wore a long-sleeved shirt. “What do you think the department’s reaction will be when they see my tattoo for the first time? Will they find some reason to fire me? If so, wouldn’t that be some sort of discrimination?”


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