Las Vegas POA

Q & A

Written on 12/10/2020
Will Aitchison

From Illinois:
Question: We are updating our tattoo policy and I have been researching any cases that address covering of off-duty tattoos that are offensive, due to being gang-related, sexually suggestive, vulgar, advocate racial, ethnic, religious or sexual hatred or discrimination. This would be for officers that clearly are a representative of a police department (i.e., a subject cutting his grass shirtless, off duty, with a squad car in the driveway, and has a swastika tattoo on his back).

Answer: I don’t know of any cases along the lines you suggest. I just finished writing the eighth edition of The Rights of Law Enforcement Officers and tried to read all police officer labor/employment cases decided in the previous five years. I didn’t see a case about the regulation of tattoos that are not visible on-duty but may be off-duty.

That said, I’d expect some basic principles to apply. For an employer to act in an area that impacts an officer’s off-duty life, it almost always is required to show some nexus to the job. The grass-cutting example you gave would have such a nexus as the public would recognize the officer as a police officer. However, one can imagine all sorts of other tattoos that are not visible on-duty which would be beyond the employer’s ability to regulate. The trick is to write any rules in such a way that you’re focused on actual harm to the employer.

Also, most states hold that grooming codes are a mandatory subject for bargaining and must be negotiated with the union before implementation. I don’t know of any Illinois cases in the area, but the results are pretty uniform elsewhere.

To submit questions on public safety labor and employment issues, visit our website at LRIS and Will Aitchison do not provide any legal advice, and users of this Q&A service and the LRIS website should consult with their own lawyer for legal advice. LRIS is a general service that provides information over the Internet. We are not a law firm and our employees are not acting as your attorney. The information contained in the Site is general legal information and should not be construed as legal advice to be applied to any specific factual situation.

The post Q & A appeared first on Labor Relations Information System.