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Published: Tuesday, 5/7/2002

Area employers' attitudes on piercings vary

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

The American Red Cross technician who collects your blood at a Toledo drive can have a tiny gold stud in her pierced nose, but the Cedar Point worker who sweeps up frozen-banana wrappers and other debris at the Sandusky amusement park can't.

Such is the disparity among northwest Ohio employers in the face, so to speak, of an increasingly popular national trend: piercings that go beyond a hole or holes in earlobes.

A nose stud has repeatedly gotten a student at Penta Career Center in Perrysburg Township suspended. Amanda Schiffer may be expelled for wearing it because the vocational school - reasoning it is helping prepare students for jobs and that such adornment is prohibited in many workplaces - bans facial jewelry.

Miss Schiffer, who is training for a career in horticulture, would have to agree not to wear facial jewelry if she interviewed, for example, at Hatfield Lawn & Landscape in Sylvania.

Unlike Cedar Point, Hatfield doesn't have a formal policy against facial piercings. Yet although even Hatfield's male employees can wear subtle earrings - which is a no-no at Cedar Point - other such jewelry is out during work hours, said Torie Hatfield, a co-owner of the firm.

Hatfield wants to ensure its uniformed employees look professional, Mrs. Hatfield said. Facial piercings may offend customers or make them uncomfortable, she said.

“Many people are just fine with it, but many people are not,” she said.

Many people have pierced body parts. Six percent of Americans have body piercings that go beyond their ears, with 4 percent of them adding tattoos, according to a recent survey conducted for American Demographics magazine.

The body art trend, though, is most common among younger people. Sixteen percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 have body piercings and tattoos, and 15 percent of those aged 25 to 29 have both, according to the survey.

Not all employers frown upon facial piercings. Steve Nash, team supervisor for an American Red Cross mobile blood-drive unit in Toledo, said facial and other jewelry is permitted if it doesn't hang down and interfere with an employee's work.

Whether facial piercings are allowed often depends upon an employer's clientele and how much the pierced employees deal with customers, said JoAnn Kroll, director of Bowling Green State University's Career Services department.

“Normally these policies have a sound business decision,” she said.

Even at BGSU, whether student employees can wear facial piercings depends on the department or office they work in, Ms. Kroll said.

The same holds true at Toledo's Dana Corp. The auto supplier doesn't have a corporate policy on facial piercings but lets its operations in 34 countries decide whether they should be allowed, said spokesman Jeff Cole.

It's not uncommon for German women to wear nose studs, and that practice is one example of why Dana has not instituted a company-wide policy, Mr. Cole said.

What is acceptable in one country may not be in another, he said.

Still, office workers are expected to have a professional appearance, especially if they see many customers, and sometimes facial piercings are banned in factories because can pose a safety threat, he said.

Tuffy Auto Service Centers has a policy against visible body piercings at its 11 company-owned locations and advises against them at its more than 250 franchised stores, said Jeff Davis, the Toledo company's vice president of marketing.

Some employees aren't allowed to wear watches or rings because of safety concerns, he said. Appearing professional is another reason to exclude facial jewelry, he added.

“We try to present a professional workplace environment, and we discourage our employees from wearing body piercings,” said Mr. Davis, adding that he doesn't think the issue has come up among office employees.

“I just don't think it's mainstream enough at this point in time.”



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