By Dedra Cordle
A revision to a long-standing policy will allow Jackson Township to cast a wider net in its professional recruitment.
At the Sept. 3 meeting, the board of trustees unanimously approved the revision of a policy that prohibited the hiring of applicants should they have visible tattoos. While this change will go into effect township-wide, it will most keenly be felt at the fire department.
According to Fire Chief Randy Little, the department has had to reject a number of quality applicants throughout the years due to visible tattoos on their forearms. Most of these candidates, he said, were members of the military who had their branch insignia inked onto their skin.
“We’ve had to turn all of them away,” he said.
Under the revision, forearm tattoos will now be permitted with the stipulation they will be covered with a long-sleeved shirt while on duty. There are, however, some visibility exceptions.
Township Administrator Shane Farnsworth said applicants who have tattoos on the elbow, face, head, knee, neck and scalp will still be rejected. They will also have to turn away applicants who have hand and finger tattoos with the exception of a single band of no more than three-eighths of an inch in width on one finger.
Potential employees, as well as current employees, will not be permitted to have tattoos that are deemed to be obscene, offensive or promote extremist or supremacist ideologies. Tattoos that are deemed to promote sexist views, anti-religious view or anti-ethnic rhetoric will also be prohibited.
During the policy revision discussion in their caucus session, trustee Stephen Bowshier said that while he supported the policy change, he was concerned by the vagueness of “appropriate or offensive” tattoos.
“Who is going to judge or determine what is appropriate or offensive?” he asked.
He said there is nothing in the United States Constitution that determines what is appropriate or offensive as it pertains to body art and is worried the lack of clarity could come back to “bite” them in the future.
Farnsworth said the draft policy revisions were taken from previous court cases that determined appropriate tattoos or body modifications for the workplace, as well guidelines set forth by the United States military.
“I think theirs is a good policy for us to follow,” he said.
Assistant Fire Chief Shawn Quincel said he was pleased with the trustee’s decision to revise the policy.
“We’ve missed out on a lot of good candidates because of it,” he said.
In related news, Little said he would also like to revisit the zero tolerance policy for tobacco use for applicants. He said he wanted the application to ask whether they could go 24 hours without using tobacco, instead of outright rejecting them for stating they use tobacco.
Trustee David Burris said they could look into the revision as long as it was used primarily to recruit part-time employees. He cited the cost of health insurance as a factor for his determination.