Parks Department's ban on tattoos is sound policy

June 04, 2004

Dear Editor:

Reviewing the on-line version of my hometown paper as I sometimes do, I read the submission of Jerry Milburn II regarding the policy instituted by the new parks commissioner, George Ward, banning the open display of tattoos by department employees. I found Mr. Milburn's opinions to be rather uninformed.

I personally have nothing against tattoo wearers. But as a former park manager with the Department of Parks, I can appreciate Mr. Ward's position and support his policy on this issue. Kentucky's state parks must compete with private industry for tourist dollars. As a businessman, Mr. Ward understands this. Many tourists and other consumers of the state's heritage resources would find distasteful and unprofessional a parks employee who sported multiple tattoos. A policy of requiring professionalism in employee appearance, particularly for employees dealing with the general public, makes sense.

Unlike gender or ethnicity, the decision to acquire a tattoo is a personal choice, and consequences sometimes follow personal choices. The analogy of an individual's "right" to display one's body art to the protections afforded African Americans and other minorities to ensure they have the same rights in the workplace is ludicrous and rather insulting to those who have struggled for equality.


I personally have read the Constitution and even some civil rights law. I therefore am reasonably confident that the right to display a tattoo in the workplace never existed.

Employers curtail their employees' personal expression all the time for any number of reasons. Sometimes this may not seem fair to an individual employee. But that does not mean the sky is falling, that America is not a free nation, or that the Kentucky Department of Parks is engaging in some form of rampant discrimination.

If this truly is the "most discriminating policy" Mr. Milburn has seen in his "26 years," he's a lucky man.

Tony Sammons


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