State Police Job Applicant Sues Over Tattoo Policy
By Mark Scolforo
Published : August 26, 2009
PENNSYLVANIA – A northeastern Pennsylvania man claims his rights were violated when he was not hired as a liquor agent with the state police because he would not have his arm tattoo removed.
Ronald Scavone sued the department Friday, asking a federal judge to decide whether the policy is constitutional and if his treatment as a job applicant violated his rights of free speech, due process and equal protection. He is seeking appointment to the job, damages and legal costs.
“If you talk to any medical professional, they’ll tell you, you can’t get a tattoo 100 percent removed,” said his Pittston lawyer, Cindy Pollick. “It’s extremely painful and there’s no guarantee that you’ll have it 100 percent gone.”
The lawsuit does not specify the nature of the upper arm tattoo, Scavone did not return a phone message seeking comment, and Pollick would not describe it in any detail.
“It’s not an offensive tattoo or inappropriate,” Pollick said. “It has no offensiveness at all associated with it.”
The state police’s Web site warns Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement applicants that their tattoos are subject to review by the Tattoo and Replica Review Committee, which can insist they be removed before a job will be offered.
State police spokeswoman Lt. Myra Taylor declined comment on the matter because it involves a pending lawsuit.
The lawsuit seeks to determine whether “the government can require you to physically alter your body in exchange for employment,” and claims the policy had no legitimate or rational reason to infringe on Scavone’s “freedom of choice in personal matters.”
Scavone, a resident of Luzerne County, said he had passed the background check for the job when he was told the tattoo must be removed before he would be hired. He was rejected for the job in June 2008 and currently works in law enforcement, his lawyer said.
Pollick said her legal research found a Connecticut case in which a court upheld a policy that required tattoos to be covered up.
“It appears the courts have not addressed policies that require the removing of tattoos, which involves an intrusion into one’s physical appearance and permanently alters the way someone looks,” according to the lawsuit.
The state police policy for troopers bans tattoos that are visible when officers are wearing short-sleeved summer uniforms, and Scavone said he was treated differently than tattooed state police employees.
“Everybody gets their own tattoo for their own reason, and often it’s when you’re 18, you’re young,” Pollick said. “Who would think, when you’re age 30-something, it’s going to affect what you want to do with your life.”
She said Scavone talked about removal with two plastic surgeons, who told him the procedure would be costly, painful and not necessarily entirely effective.
Source : Times Leader