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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge OKs Tattoo as a Bar to Employment

SCRANTON, Pa. (CN) - A federal judge put the kibosh on a lawsuit from a would-be liquor control officer who said the Pennsylvania State Police's unconstitutional anti-tattoo policy prevented him from getting the job.

Granting summary judgment for the police, U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo approved the agency's tattoo policy, which bars workers from sporting ink that is "inappropriate; demean[s] the image or reputation of the PSP; or prevent[s] undercover work."

Plaintiff Ronald Scavone challenged that policy in an August 2009 complaint, asking that "the court declare the invasive tattoo removal policy unconstitutional." He claimed his First Amendment rights were violated when he was denied the job.

Scavone claimed he "successful[ly] completed the selection process and background check to be employed" with PSP as a liquor enforcement officer trainee, but "was not hired in the position because of ... a violation of his constitutional rights that he must physically alter his body by way of having a tattoo removed to be allowed employment with the government."

He claimed that the outcome of his complaint "will answer the question of whether the government can require you to physically alter your body in exchange for employment."

Judge Caputo said that the government can. He found that Scavone's failure to remove his "jester" tattoo was a legitimate bar to his employment.

"The tattoo policy rationally related to the PSP's legitimate interest in its image and reputation as well as the safety of its officers," Caputo ruled.

"Furthermore, LEOs [liquor enforcement officers] do mostly undercover investigations. A tattoo makes them readily identifiable, inhibiting their ability to do their job."

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