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by Abigail Van Buren

Body Art Finds More Foes Than Fans Among Employers

DEAR ABBY: I'm writing in response to "Out-of-Work Mom," who was disturbed because she was rejected by potential employers when they noticed her pierced tongue and multiple ear piercings.

Just as her piercings and tattoos reflect her personal style and values, a business owner's employees reflect his or hers. Like it or not, customers judge the business by the appearance and behavior of the frontline employees. It makes sense that an employer will hire those who present themselves in a way that's compatible with the image the business owner wants to project.

If she really wants to find employment that will help her provide well for herself and her daughter, "Mom" should consider leaving her individuality at home. (I wish you well, Young Mother.) -- AN OLDER MOTHER IN TEXAS

DEAR OLDER MOTHER: That letter generated a flurry of mail. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Someone should inform "Out-of-Work Mom" that many people do base their attitudes on first impressions. Is she big enough not to cop an attitude when that happens? I agree that she has every right to pierce whatever she wants -- but if she can't stand the backlash, she shouldn't blame it on others. The choice was hers. -- PREVIOUS EMPLOYER IN MICH.

DEAR PREVIOUS EMPLOYER: I agree. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: As a job interviewer, if that young woman walked into my office with a tongue ring, the interview would be over. Not because I think a tongue ring is freaky, but because I think it is inappropriate for a job interview -- as are shorts, jeans, transparent clothing, T-shirts and visible underwear.

Experience has shown me that every time we have made allowances for an applicant's odd behavior in a job interview, we have gone on to have performance problems with that employee. -- SERIOUS INTERVIEWER, SILVER SPRING, MD.

DEAR INTERVIEWER: In fairness, not all employers are as rigid in their thinking as you. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Your response to "Out-of-Work" was a little outdated. I am a newspaper reporter with a pierced tongue. Like several other professionals here, I wear my piercings to work.

Fortunately, my employers looked at my skills and professionalism, not at the metal stud in my tongue -- which I wore to my interview and was hired anyway. Wish "Out-of-Work" luck for me. -- PIERCED BUT PROFESSIONAL IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR PIERCED PROFESSIONAL: You are not the only pierced professional who piped up. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Tell that young woman to take heart. I am the administrative assistant to the Canadian president of a large U.S.-based company, and I have had my tongue pierced for almost a year now. My boss wasn't aware my tongue was pierced until I told him one day, three months after I was hired.

Times are changing, and "conservative" companies must get with it or they'll miss out on some talented employees over a couple of little pieces of jewelry. -- MOM IN TORONTO, CANADA

DEAR MOM: You could be right -- but judging from the mail I received from the business world, you are fortunate to have a very liberal employer. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: When I was barely 18, I, too, got a tattoo. For my 40th birthday, I treated myself to a full physical. When the doctor saw my tattoo, she asked how old it was and had I ever had a hepatitis test. Well, I tested positive for antibodies to Hep-B. My doctor assured me that it wasn't a death sentence, but advised that I never donate blood. It's a shame, because with my blood type, I would have been a universal donor.

My message to young people: Get vaccinated and keep your tattoos and piercings in perspective, or to yourselves. -- TATTOOED INTERVIEWER IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR TATTOOED: Good advice. I hope that those who need it will "get the point."

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

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