According to Paddle Your Own Kanoo, a labor arbitrator determined that Air Canada could not prevent its flight attendants from having visible tattoos while they wore their uniform, so long as the tattoo is inoffensive and is not on the neck or face. Furthermore, the labor arbitrator determined that the airliner had to allow its flight attendants to have ear piercings other than the simple stud earrings that they are permitted to have. In this article, we will discuss what this article means.
According to the piece, flight attendants are bound by Air Canada’s dress code and personal appearance policy. The personal appearance policy had within it a tattoo and piercing policy that meant that flight attendants had to cover any tattoos in case they damaged Air Canada’s reputation. The tattoo and piercing policy served not only to protect the reputation of the airliner, but to protect the values of customers as they were being served.
The flight attendants were represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), who believed that the policy was offensive, unreasonable and discriminatory. Consequently, in 2019, the union filed a grievance against the airline as well as Air Canada Rouge, claiming that the policy was not grounded in any evidence that tattoos offended passengers or prevented the cabin crew from doing their job.
The labor arbitrator, William Kaplan, was appointed according to Canada’s Labor Code, and found for the union, and demanded the airline amend its tattoo and piercing policy. The order was given under the auspices of Canada’s Human Rights Act.
According to the amendments, flight attendants will be permitted to display discreet tattoos, so long as they are inoffensive, and not connected to alcohol, discrimination, drugs, harassment, hatred, or violence. Flight attendants are not permitted to have tattoos on their head, except where those tattoos are immediately behind their ears or on their neck.
It is also permissible to have visible henna art if it is connected to any celebratory, cultural, or religious reasons.
It is also now permissible for flight attendants to have nose studs, which must fit flush in order for them to adhere to safety standards. Ear expanders are still forbidden.
Around the time that the union filed its grievance, Air New Zealand liberalized its personal appearance policy, allowing flight attendants and other uniformed crew to have visible tattoos, even on their face. In doing so, Air New Zealand became the first major airline to permit its crew to wear tattoos. New Zealand has a large aborigine population which has a rich heritage of tattoos whose designs have inspired some of the best tattoo shops in the world.
Air New Zealand stated that the reason for their change in policy was motivated by a desire to liberate its uniformed crew by embracing their diversity and allowing them to express their individuality and cultural heritage.
The story illustrates how tattoos are rapidly becoming part of mainstream culture. As recently as the 90s, many psychiatrists believed that tattoos and other body modifications indicated the presence of a borderline personality disorder. Today, nearly half of millennials have at least one tattoo and make up a third of the labor force. The world is evolving and becoming more open and less discriminatory.