only airlines maintain the veto to hire tattooed assistants

You may not have noticed it, but try to check it out the next time you get on a airplane: there is no one in the crew carrying a single visible tattoo. Be the airline to be. And, if they take it, they will have covered it in such a way that you do not realize that this drawing exists.

Lourdes (not her real name) is a 27-year-old stewardess from Madrid who works for a Spanish airline. She tells THE NEWSPAPER OF SPAINa newspaper belonging to the same editorial group as this medium, which, every time it has to go to work, spends about an hour covering the tattoo of her ankle with makeup. “The boys' uniform has pants, mine has a skirt. With the high-heeled shoe she looks. It must be covered in some way, because it must always be well hidden. I've been like this for 3 years."

Explain that the drawing in question is a flower. Nothing offensive in any culture "far as I know. But the rules here are what they are and my tattoo cannot be shown. Then you can see some pilot who has tattoos on his arms. But he is the highest authority on the plane and he is not facing the public. They don't have that problem."

'That problem', after so many years of civil aviation, is still exclusive to flight attendants. Stewardesses, flight attendants. The so-called TCP (Passenger Cabin Crew). The part of the staff that caters to travelers and whose members are strictly prohibited from having visible tattoos on their skin. “Neither piercings, but that's easier to fix. The tattoo thing, it depends on where you take it, it makes it impossible for you to work on this”.

It is not written in any treaty on commercial flights. There is no international standard that specifies it. In fact, we have contacted the Spanish airline employers (Airline Association - ALA) and his answer is that it is not within his competence: “We have no opinion about it because it is not our thing. It is the policy and decision of each airline.”

It is, therefore, about an exclusive decision of each company. What happens is that they all have the same hiring policy: if you have visible tattoos, of any kind, forget about working with us. And it is a global custom.

Forced to cheat

Like Lourdes, there are hundreds of young people (because the profession also has age limits) who are faced with a dilemma when they decide what they want work as flight attendants: tattoo or job. There are few alternatives: "If you can hide it, make sure you really hide it and nobody sees it," he explains to the aforementioned newspaper Carlos. A 25-year-old assistant from Barcelona who is also forced to juggle to hide his tattoos.

“In my case I have five; four are in the ankle and calves. I have no problem with those. I do have it with the fifth, the one on the chest. Depending on the fabric of the uniform shirt, it is transparent. In fact, I got caught once. The good thing is that the person who checked it on me that day turned a blind eye and only warned me to cover it up so as not to have any problems. If he had caught me another, maybe I would have lost my job.”

The tattoo, if it is in a visible area, makes it impossible to work as a flight attendant.

Lourdes and Carlos work for two Spanish airlines, although they prefer not to specify which one. Like their jobs, which they have been doing for 3 years and do not want to put it at risk by exposing themselves. Prejudice, however, is not exclusive to our country. The ban on visible tattoos is widespread throughout the world.

“In the job interview they put a paper with a human body drawn in front of me and asked me to place my tattoos there. I lied and put none. But other colleagues have told me that some airline in the Middle East makes sure you don't take them and makes you take off your clothes to make sure, that I'm not sure if that's very legal," says Lourdes.

The only airline that seems to have skipped it is Air New Zealandwhich allows tattoos to its TCP since September 2019. Initially it was a measure adopted to show respect to the so-called tattoos ta maoko (Maori, the aborigines of the island). But the president of the company, Christopher Luxonended up declaring that it was a question of the evolution of mentality.

“In conversations we've had with clients and New Zealanders over the last five months, it's clear that there is a growing acceptance of tattoos in New Zealand, particularly as a means of cultural and individual expression. Research indicates that one in five New Zealanders have at least one tattoo, with more than 35 percent of those under 30 tattooed”, declared the spokesman for the company exception that confirms the rule.

there is work

In the sector where there is employment, but which has the handicap of visible tattoos in general. And in the academies he usually notices it. “I'm the first thing I tell them when they arrive. Guys, visible tattoos can be a reason for you not to be selected. He explains it to us in a telephone conversation Nuria Lopez Ondarza, owner of two centers of the Air Hostess chain, one of the best-known Spanish flight attendant academies. She has centers in Bilbao, Santander and is going to open one in Pamplona.

He teaches a course that lasts three and a half months and costs around 3,000 euros. But it pays off because, he says, it is a sector in which job demand is important: "It is rare the week that someone from the academy does not get placed." That is why she reads them the fine print of what they are going to find from the beginning: “I am honest and I tell you first, because it is a very strong conditioning element. I'm not going to cheat on you. If the tattoo can be camouflaged, go ahead. But if you have your entire arm painted or you have one in an area where it is impossible, better dedicate yourself to something else.

“I myself have tattoos on my ankles and, depending on the footwear, I had to make them up", recognize. “I know it is a question of the company's image, but I don't understand why this sector has not evolved in that direction. The tattoo no longer has the same connotations as before. Now the hard part is finding someone who doesn't wear it. We haven't made any progress in that regard."

Even the Civil Guard

Indeed, commercial aviation seems to have remained the only redoubt of prejudice against visible tattoos, if we talk about sectors. Until last year, the Civil Guard was in this tiny group. Since its inception, La Meritorious has never allowed her agents to wear visible tattoos.

That changed last November. The Minister council He carried out a royal decree that prohibited tattoos contrary to discipline or constitutional values, but allowed the rest of visible drawings wearing the uniform, for the first time in the history of the Armed Institute. "Tattoos or part of them that are visible wearing the general use uniform of the Civil Guard are allowed, provided they do not reflect prohibited motives or expressions", says article 13.2 of Royal Decree 967/2021.

A problem, on the other hand, overcome in the other bodies and security forces of the state. The tattoo in a visible area is not, per se, a reason to rule out a candidate in any of the Spanish police forces. In the field of private companies, there are specific firms that do not allow certain visible tattoos to be worn either. But let it be a generalized limitation in the sector, only in the airlines.

Is it legit?

But, is it legal or discriminatory that in the 21st century, the mere existence of a tattoo (without going into its dimensions or meaning) can mean forgetting about a job? The labor lawyer Eva Voyeur points out to EL PERIÓDICO DE ESPAÑA that "Article 38 of the Spanish constitution allows this type of restriction in the hiring of personnel on the basis of the law of the business freedom. Although it is true that we are facing demands that may be discriminatory or violate the right to one's own image, they are also protected by law.

Would it then be possible for one of these companies to fire a worker who was not identified as having tattoos at the time of hiring? The lawyer analyzes this assumption: "If the tattoo is in a visible area with the company uniform and one of the requirements to join the workforce was precisely not to have those areas tattooed, a disciplinary dismissal for this fact could be justified, since the tattoo would conflict with the corporate image of the company. And employee, knowing him, would have hidden it in the job interview."

However, he adds that a lawsuit could have a legal course: "We are in a situation where various constitutional rights collide (the right to freedom of enterprise versus the right to one's own image and the free development of the worker's personality) with what which, if the employee decides to sue and the procedure goes to court It could be the case that the social judge considers that the dismissal is null and void because it is discriminatory".

What he is clear about is not legal is having to locate tattoos on a piece of paper during an interview: "In no case can a candidate be forced to draw on paper the tattoos he has on his body in an interview, since with that it would be violating their right to privacy. What happens in these cases is that the candidates agree because they are aware that if they do not, they will not have any opportunity to continue in the selection process, so that once the interviewer's request is accepted, it is difficult to defend that the company has violated their right to privacy.

The companies

Eva Mirón asserts that it is not legal either, in case they ask her in an interview, to show her body to check if there are tattoos: "This scenario is totally impossible in Spainat least within the legality, since both our Constitution and the Penal Code they protect us A company that forced candidates to undress could be committing a crime against privacy and sexual freedom, a situation that occurred a few years ago in Alicante as a result of a businessman forcing candidates to a position as waitress and dancer from a disco to dance and get naked while recording the interview through a webcam".

And what do the companies say about it? EL PERIÓDICO DE ESPAÑA has contacted several of the main Spanish airlines. We have left the message, but in none of the three cases have they answered us. Thus, the restriction of visible tattoos in airlines borders on illegality, but the law gives companies the power to decide and the candidates accept it. This sector is the last redoubt left against tattoos. In the heights there is work, but for those who do not have tattoos.

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