The Case of the Discharged Checker

Date: April 10, 2009

Lindsey was glad to graduate from high school and had decided not to go to college. Her job search, though, was not quite what she expected as she found there were very few job opportunities around. After finding little success in her job search, Lindsey decided to try the local supermarket where she was hired as a checker.

When Lindsey filled out her application, she had been wearing a sweatshirt, but when she started to work, she was wearing a short sleeve shirt. Lindsey, several months before, had gotten a large tattoo on her right arm as well as a tattoo on her left hand. When Lindsey\’s supervisor saw the tattoos, Lindsey was advised that she had been fired. Lindsey then sought out the advice of a lawyer to see if she could bring an unlawful dismissal suit against the supermarket.

Question: Does Lindsey have a case?

Answer: No. In Pennsylvania, Lindsey would be considered an employee subject to being fired for basically any reason by her employer. Lindsey\’s claim that there was a violation of her free speech does not apply to her employer as her employer is not a governmental agency of any type. Lindsey\’s employer would be considered a private employer. As long as Lindsey\’s private employer did not infringe upon the First Amendment rights, such as freedom from discrimination because of age, sex or nationality, Lindsey has no case.

In Pennsylvania, a private employer has the right and, many times, exercises that right to exclude from potential applicants individuals with readily visible tattoos and/or body piercings. In many instances, these are considered distracting and/or unacceptable to a large segment of the population.

Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive. Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column.

Joe Price
Attorney Joe Price is a seasoned Trial Lawyer serving Northeast, Central and Southeast Pennsylvania for the past forty (40) years. He has handled serious personal injury cases in courts throughout the Federal system including New Jersey and New York. Attorney Price is A.V. Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is Board Certified in Civil Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1996.