Tinkerbell has been grounded by Air NZ

Tauranga woman Lynley Baker, 46, is accusing Air New Zealand of discrimination after it rejected her job application because of her back tattoo. Photo: Stuff

A Tauranga woman's decision to get a tattoo of Tinker Bell on her back six years ago has grounded her hopes of working for Air New Zealand.

Lynley Baker, 46, says she applied for a Tauranga City Airport part-time customer service role with Air New Zealand late last month, but the national carrier rejected her job application because of the tattoo.

She was told by the airline that the tattoo, which sits between her shoulder blades, would have been visible while wearing the airline's distinctive "koru dress" uniform – a big no-no according to the airline's uniform policy.

Lynley, who works as a travel broker, says she was "disgusted" by the stance and accused the airline of discrimination.

But an employment lawyer said Air New Zealand's actions were not illegal, and employers were well within their rights to discriminate against tattoos – unless they were of culture or religious significance.

Lynley says her application was progressing well, with the airline asking her to provide video responses to written questions and to fill out a form declaring things like criminal convictions and visible body art.

Lynley noted she had a tattoo on her back and provided photos as requested by the airline.

She soon received a call from an Air New Zealand representative who said her application would not proceed any further because her tattoo would have been visible while wearing the Air New Zealand dress.

Lynley says she was puzzled by this because she was aware that Air New Zealand's female uniform consisted of a range of garments including shirts, scarves and jackets – all of which would have covered her tattoo.

But the woman on the phone says the airline's dress was the one garment in its uniform that was used as the test for whether a tattoo was visible or not, says Lynley.

"I am disgusted that they are allowed to get away with this type of discrimination when there is clearly an option in the uniform range that would hide my tattoo," says Lynley.

In a statement, an Air New Zealand spokeswoman says its uniform standard was well known.

"Uniformed customer-facing staff are not permitted to have tattoos visible when wearing the uniform," says the Air New Zealand spokeswoman.

"The policy applied equally to men and women," she says.

On its website, Air New Zealand says its uniform policy does not permit visible tattoo's in its "koru uniforms".

The spokeswoman would not comment on the reasons why an individual's employment application was unsuccessful.

Air New Zealand has been in the spotlight for its firm stance on tattoos in the past after it rejected a job applicant with a moko in 2013.

Lynley says she got the tattoo six years ago during a "midlife crisis".

She says only about 1 centimetre of her tattoo would have been visible wearing the dress, which could have been covered up using concealer.

"I'm just so angry because it's not like it's on my face, it's between my shoulder blades.”

"For a national company that's pretty crap that they can just rule people out for something like that."

Lynley got the tattoo about six years ago during a "midlife crisis".

Dundas Street Employment Lawyers partner Susan Hornsby-Geluk says there was nothing illegal about discriminating against people with tattoos.

"Employers are entitled to state their own dress code, including jewellery and any body decorations," says Susan.

“However, if the tattoo was of religious or ethnic significance then a complaint of indirect discrimination could be made.”

There are 13 specific prohibited grounds of discrimination set out in the Human Rights Act, which a recruiter must adhere to, including but not limited to age, marital status, race, religious belief and sex.

Susan says anything that fell outside of those grounds, including tattoos, was effectively fair game for employers to discriminate against.




Posted on 16-08-2018 19:01 | By Slim Shady

Well if you’re still daft enough at 40 to do this then I cannot imagine they’d be any good at the job. So good decision by AIr NZ. And if you run to the media like a baby, it only serves to let any other prospective employers know that you are trouble. Maybe less anger and more thought required. Good luck with the job hunting.


Posted on 13-08-2018 09:41 | By LyricalSoul

Sorry if it offends but I agree with the airline, if you want to get tattoo’s that’s your business but when working in customer service especially, you have to look your best for the public. You have to consider these sorts of things when deciding to get tattoo’s, & unfortunately you have found it is a costly mistake.

All about choice...

Posted on 12-08-2018 23:29 | By morepork

There is nothing preventing people from decorating their bodies if they want to. But, rightly or wrongly, something which could be innocent to one person could have an entirely different meaning to another. (A hindu sees a swastika a lot differently from the way a Jew might see it...) Tinkerbell seems pretty innocuous but maybe it has another meaning to a different part of society? Employers have a perfect right to not take the risk of offending any of their customers, so banning body art is understandable. If you think you might want to get employed in life, then don’t narrow your options by getting tatooed in places that will be visible. Otherwise, you are limited to seeking employment from people who share your values and don’t mind. But don’t blame the ones who don’t, because they won’t employ you. They have a perfect right not to.

Defacing Tatoos and Employment

Posted on 12-08-2018 20:48 | By carpedeum

Fully support Air NZ policyre no visible tattoos. They are entitled to have standards of their choosing- remember they will be paying the salaries.I hope it includes people with visible studs too- I also struggle to be served by a person in a food environment with studs in the noses, lips cheeks tongues etc from a hygiene point of view.

The age of entitlement

Posted on 12-08-2018 16:43 | By The Tomahawk Kid

At what stage did the rules of a private company become NOT their rules, but MOB RULE? Since when did individuals get the right to say what rules a private company are allowed to have? You are not entitled to dictate what their rules of employment are. It is THEIR company and have every right to protect their brand with whatever rules they decide. I agree it is a shame for the young lady, but the consequences of destroying their rights would have far worse and invasive consequences. We live in The age of entitlement and here is a good example of that in action.. In the free world If people wish to be free (ie to get tattoos) then they must first ensure that OTHERS are free (to make rules about employees not having tattoos).

Personal Rights or Employers Rights

Posted on 12-08-2018 15:35 | By Mal C

At what point can any employer decide if a person is right for a job. An employer has a lot at stake when starting any business and the ability to select a person for any role surely is their right. It is the right of an individual to have body art, piercings, hair styles, or even specific clothing choices like burkas, or such like, so surley it is the same right of an employer to select a candidate based on how they wish their staff to appear. Is this not a country of equal rights, well no it seems to be slipping away rapidly to the opposite. Yes your tattoo may be unseen but the employer surely has this right hence they ask the question.


Posted on 12-08-2018 15:06 | By Local Too

Tell me why run to the media when a private companies rules are the rules?

Tinkerbell and Air NZ

Posted on 12-08-2018 14:16 | By Angela

My sons partner had exactly the same thing happen. She declared a 3 inch tattoo or NZ that would never been seen in uniform and even offered to cover it with concealer each shift. What a shame, she would have been a great asset to Air NZ also. Their loss, which is a huge shame.

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