Can I ask my employee to cover a religious facial tattoo that is not required by the religion?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can I ask my employee to cover a religious facial tattoo that is not required by the religion?

One of my employees recently got a tattoo of a pagan symbol on her forehead. This was done without prior conversation or acknowledgement. My employee handbook does

not specify about tattoos. There’s never been an issue in the past. We do state that we

want to uphold a professional and presentable look. The tattoo is not required by the

religion but was put there too to glorify it. We tried to stay religious neutral at our

business, which by the way is a small business if it matters. I’m afraid that this is going to offend and scare off a majority of our customers. Am I legally allowed to ask her to find a way to cover it? And what can I do if this results in revenue loss?

Asked on November 4, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Yes, if the symbol and its tatooing upon the forhead is not a requirment of her religion, you may require her to cover it up at work (e.g. hat, bandana, wig, make-up, etc.) or else terminate her. The law only requires reasonable accommodation for religous mandates or requirements, not for an individual's voluntary choice to promote her faith. (Other example: an employer has to let a Jewish  employee wear a yalmuka, or a Muslim woman her veil or other covering, but neither would have any right to harass other people about their faith or criticize other employees for not following the Jews or Muslim's religous practices, like only eating kosher or halal food; only what is required by a religion is protected).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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