ST. CLAIRSVILLE, OH (WTRF) — It is a tale of he said she said after a Facebook post went viral surrounding the St. Clairsville Public Library.
A month into her dream job, Ariana Johnston was taken aside by library director Doug Walsh.
“He told me I need to cover up my tattoos, even though there was nothing in the dress code policy and hadn’t been a problem the month prior,” said Ariana Johnston, Former Librarian Assistant at St. Clairsville Public Library.
On this mother’s hand is the name of her first child. She wondered if she was expected to wear gloves. She refused to cover her tattoos.
“And from there, he decided they wanted to update the policy through the board,” said Johnston.
Director Doug Walsh sees it differently. “Our policy doesn’t say anything about dress,” said Walsh.
He told 7NEWS he was just trying to update the ancient dress code and gather input from two employees with tattoos.
He denies Ariana’s claims that he told the two employees to cover up.
“It felt so random, I felt that maybe something had happened, and I just wasn’t aware of it. So, I did ask him if a patron complained, and he said there wasn’t a physical complaint,” said Johnston.
And so, ahead of the board meeting, she took to Facebook. Everyone from police officers to hospital workers started messaging her, saying they have tattoos and aren’t asked to cover up on the job.
It caught the library board’s eye. Two meetings were held.
Johnston says there was no formal way to file a grievance under the current policy.
“My position there was coming to an end. I felt like it was a very stressful work environment, and I started to have some health issues with my pregnancy,” said Johnston.
Days after the second meeting, she quit.
Johnston says her coworker with tattoos, who had been working at the library for seven months with no problems, was also asked to cover up. She, too, filed a written grievance.
Three days later, she was fired.
Ohio is an at-will state, which means the library does not need to give a reason for why they let someone go. But 7NEWS asked Walsh for a reason.
“It was clear to the board and the administration that the employee wasn’t happy,” said the library director. And added, “I never believed that tattoos were unprofessional.”
While the dress code is still out for decision by the board, Walsh stresses if you are a patron entering the St. Clairsville Public Library, you are welcome, regardless of your tattoos.