Chris Brooks is pursuing a civil rights complaint against Republic Airways. He says the Indianapolis-based airline refused to interview him because of his tattoos. (image by Bruce Graner/Pensacola News Journal)
Jeff Swiatek, The Indianapolis Star
INDIANAPOLIS -- A man who said he was refused a job interview because of his tattoos can continue to pursue a civil rights complaint against Republic Airways after getting the green light from a state agency.
Chris Brooks of Pensacola, Fla., said he can't understand why Indianapolis-based Republic denied him a job interview last year to be a flight attendant because of his forearm tattoos.
After all, he says, he worked for a year as a flight attendant at another airline and he has a pending job offer to be a flight attendant for yet another airline.
Brooks, 28, was told Wednesday that the Indiana Civil Rights Commission found probable cause that Republic discriminated against him, which allows his complaint to legally proceed.
Republic was hiring women with tattoos if they agreed to cover them up, the commission concluded, and it should have granted Brooks the same option.
The crux of the dispute apparently is Republic's opinion that his tattoos would be visible to passengers even under a long-sleeve shirt when he stretched out his arms handing out drinks or putting luggage into overhead compartments.
Airline spokesman Peter Kowalchuk said Republic has an "appearance code" for flight attendants that body tattoos can't be visible while they are working, but they are allowed to hide tattoos under their uniforms.
He wouldn't comment on the issues in Brooks' complaint, saying it's a legal matter.
Brooks said he has a tattoo of praying hands and the words "Pray for me" on his left forearm and a Japanese symbol for genius on his right forearm.
He said the tattoos are far enough up on his forearms that they don't show under a long-sleeve shirt when he stretches out his arm.
When Republic cited the tattoos as the reason for not interviewing him, "That was kind of a major shock to me," he said today. "It was a little bit disheartening."
Brooks said the tattoos weren't an issue with the airline that gave him his current job offer. "The only stipulation was I had to wear long-sleeve shirts year-round," he said.
Tattoos are common among airline personnel, he said. "Some of those pilots actually flying the plane are covered with tattoos," he said.
Brooks' complaint now can proceed to a public hearing to determine if Republic violated state law, the commission said. Brooks filed his complaint in May.
One way to resolve the complaint would be a monetary payment to Brooks, commission spokesman Brad Meadows said. Mediation has been unsuccessful so far, he said.