While some workplaces are becoming more tolerant of visible body piercings, this isn't the case with every company. Some employers believe that modified employees hurt their professional image and therefore have policies in place to prevent workers from sporting facial piercings and other body modifications. Before you race to the piercing parlor to get that nose ring you've been lusting after, ensure your new adornment won't jeopardize your job.
Your Rights and the Law
While discrimination toward people with body modifications certainly exists, the law doesn't prohibit it. Various federal laws prevent employers from discriminating against workers based on race, ethnicity, age, sex, sexual orientation, religion and disability, but these laws don't apply to piercings and other modifications. While you have the right to do as you wish with your body, your employer has the right to set a standard of appearances and request that you comply.
Dress Code Policies
Most companies have some form of dress code policy, and depending on the industry, standards vary widely. From business suits and scrubs to jeans and T-shirts, employers are allowed to set their own dress codes and require compliance so long as it doesn't discriminate based on any grounds protected by law. Since piercings aren't protected, your boss can tell you that you can't sport visible piercings while you're on the job. Look over your employee handbook or ask for a copy of the dress code before you decide to get a piercing. You might find that your company allows facial piercings, in which case you'll have no issues. However, if it turns out that piercings are a no-no at your job, you should reconsider.
If you get a piercing and your company doesn't allow modifications on the job, you could be terminated for refusing to comply with company guidelines. Your boss may offer you a warning first and tell you to remove the jewelry. But in states with at-will employment laws, this isn't guaranteed and you could face termination on the spot. In the event you're terminated, you have little recourse unless you can prove that you were discriminated against for reasons that are protected by law and not just because of the piercing.
Tips and Considerations
Talk to your boss before you get a piercing and ask for her input. She might reveal that the dress code is outdated and she doesn't mind if you sport facial jewelry around the office. You may also be able to negotiate a compromise. For example, you could offer to wear a clear retainer on the job once your piercing has healed and you're able to switch the jewelry. In the event she refuses the idea of you having piercings at work, discuss specific consequences before you make a decision.