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August 3, 2013

Removing tattoos a big step for job hunters

Luis Orozco had ferocious orange-and-black tigers snarling out from each of his calves.

Juan Velasquez had a massive red, white and blue eagle spread across his shoulder.

Yolanda Carretero had an old English-style “L” and flower on her left hand.

They were among several dozen people who flocked to a low-cost tattoo removal clinic in San Pablo, Calif. recently. Sponsored by the San Pablo Economic Development Corp., the monthly clinic is the first step of the city’s Removing Barriers program that soon will add training on job-readiness and fiscal responsibility.

While tattoos are widespread — a quarter of adults age 30 to 39 have at least one tattoo, while a third of 25- to 29-year-olds are tattooed, a recent Harris Poll found — career experts say they can be a barrier to employment.

“People with visible tattoos can face significant boundaries,” said Leslay Choy, general manager of the economic development group.

“I’ve had bank vice presidents tell me they have back-office employees who are great, but they cannot promote them to being tellers because bank customers have certain expectations. We have one woman who was offered a promotion, but only on the condition that she keep all her tattoos covered. She had ‘sleeves’ all the way down to her wrists. Finding professional clothing that covered her all the way down all year long in her size is very difficult.”

Gabriela Diaz of San Pablo, a dental assistant, said her neck tattoo -- her last name in elaborate letters — makes it harder to get a job.

At one job, she wore turtlenecks for the six-month probation period.

Her current boss offered to pay for the removal. But she also was motivated to set an example for her three children, ages 5, 6 and 9. “I don’t want them to get tattooed, so I need to practice what I preach,” she said.

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