The owner of a spit roast catering company who won the right to ask an employee to cover up her tattoo is backing Air New Zealand's decision not to hire a woman sporting a traditional ta moko on her lower arm.

Graham Peet said corporate New Zealand did not need to review its policies on visible culturally significant tattoos and Air New Zealand was within its rights to protect its brand.

"I think that case is nothing to do with respect for anyone's culture and everything to do with a company wanting to be as professional as possible at all times."

Mr Peet's Spit Roast Catering Company won against employee Claire Haupini after she took a discrimination case to the Human Rights Commission because she was asked to cover her tattoo before catering a large corporate function in May 2010.


The company won $15,000 in costs, awarded against the Director of Human Rights Proceedings who represented Ms Haupini in the failed case.

It came as debate continued into the case of Claire Nathan, who was dismissed from an interview for a hostess position with Air New Zealand in January because she had a Maori motif on her forearm.

Air New Zealand was criticised as hypocritical for the move because it carries a koru in its logo and has used heavily tattooed celebrities, such as pop singer Gin Wigmore and the All Blacks, in advertising campaigns.

The company said this week it was reviewing all standards across the airline, including the issue of frontline staff having visible tattoos of any origin or design.

But Mr Peet said he did not believe that was necessary.

"We're pretty diversified out there and some people would and do take offence to tattoos and others don't at all. It could be cultural to you and this is the difficulty, where do you draw the line? So it's just easier to have a blanket policy."

But Ms Nathan, a hairdresser who had received positive comments on the ta moko during the 10 years she'd had it, said she would continue to pursue the case through the Human Rights Commission.

She would also consider an invitation extended from Jetstar, Air New Zealand's domestic competitor, to apply for a job there because of its options around covering cultural tattoos.


Jetstar said it welcomed an application from Ms Nathan for a customer services role.

"Our policy requires all tattoos to be covered while on duty. However, at Jetstar we have options in place with our uniform policy to allow for specific cultural traditions," a spokesman said.

Virgin Australia Airlines, whose New Zealand operations are based in Christchurch, also invited an application from Ms Nathan, but said her tattoo would have to be hidden.

"She would be more than welcome to apply and go through our normal application process but our policy on the tattoos is they must be appropriately covered," a spokesman said. "As part of our grooming standards for staff that front customers, there is a requirement that tattoos need to be appropriately covered."

He said such a policy was standard across the airline industry and it was for "brand" reasons.

"Obviously everyone's in a uniform and from our perspective it's about that Virgin Australia brand."

He did not know if the airline employed New Zealand staff with traditional tattoos.

"If they meet the grooming regulations then that's the end of the conversation."

Qantas said it had the same policy to cover tattoos.

Airline ink

Two Air New Zealand rival airlines say they welcome a job application from Claire Nathan, whose forearm ta moko ruled her out from a job with the national carrier.

Jetstar: Tattoos must be covered on duty. Has uniform exemptions for cultural traditions.

Virgin Australia Airlines: Tattoos must be "appropriately covered".