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.