Employers will sometimes set rules regarding the appearance of their employees in the workplace. However, it is important to ensure that any proposed rules that affect people with tattoos do not amount to discrimination.

Discrimination is against the law when people are treated unfairly because of a personal attribute that is protected by law, including race, sex and gender identity. Discrimination can happen when employers put in place conditions or requirements which appear to treat everyone the same but which actually disadvantage some people because of a personal attribute they share. If the requirement is not reasonable in the circumstances, it could be discrimination.

Example: An employer had a policy to refuse to hire any workers with visible tattoos, even for roles that involved no customer contact. A Maori job applicant who had a tattoo for reasons connected to his ethnic origin was not hired because of his tattoo. This could be racial discrimination.