Alabama firefighter said she was fired after getting a tattoo on the back of her head
A spokesperson for the city of Mobile confirmed that in addition to Kay'Ana Adams, at least one other firefighter has a neck tattoo yet wasn't terminated for violating policy.
A Black firefighter in Mobile, Alabama, claims the city terminated her after she got a tattoo on the back of her head.
According to WKRG News 5, Kay’Ana Adams, a nine-month employee of the Maryvale station, said when she received the ink on her head in June 2022, she thought it followed the Mobile Fire Department’s policy, which, at the time, forbade “tattoos on the face or neck.”
“Somebody put in a complaint in regard to my tattoo, and the next thing I knew, I was being investigated for it, interrogated behind it,” Adams said, according to WKRG, “and then they made their decision that I was in violation of policy.”
Adams claims she let her hair grow out to cover up the tattoo after being given the option by the city. A few weeks later, another complaint contended her grown-out hair violated the city’s guidelines.
The department altered its policy to forbid head tattoos above the neckline three months after she received her tattoo.
A fire captain, on Nov. 10, snapped a picture of the back of Adams’ head — with the tattoo no longer visible. Adams claims that despite her efforts to adhere to the old and revised tattoo standards, she was fired that very day for allegedly “failing to meet MFRD standards.”
Adams thinks that in addition to her head tattoo and subsequent complaint about her hair, she was let go because she voiced concerns about her experience as a trainee and new firefighter, maintaining that she did “exactly what I was supposed to do” during her brief time with the department.
She claims to have witnessed and reported two complaints detailing numerous instances of harassment and hostility, including sexist comments made by two male firefighters at her station and derogatory remarks a male firefighter made regarding “feminism and women’s rights.”
Adams also allegedly spoke up about a troubling incident at the department’s training school.
Adams said she discussed her worries with two supervisors at her station, Captains Jason Craig and Rodrick Shoots. She claims Captain Shoots was fired and Captain Craig suspended after repeatedly speaking out on her behalf during the handling of the allegations against her head tattoo.
“Without them, I don’t know how bad it could’ve been. You know I’ve had people yelling at me in my face, and me as a woman and these being men,” said Adams of Shoots and Craig — who, like her, are members of the Black Progressive Firefighters Association. “I just, I don’t know what would’ve happened if they weren’t there for me.”
Both men intend to appeal their disciplinary decisions in hearings set for Jan. 17 and Jan. 19.
A Mobile spokesperson confirmed that at least one other firefighter on duty has a neck tattoo yet was not fired for violating city policy. Instead, he is permitted to cover the tattoo until its required removal.
A “blindsided” Adams filed a grievance regarding the complaint about her hair, but she was dismissed days before she was supposed to hear back. She has since filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the department.
“I never thought it would come to this, especially considering I was in compliance,” Adams said, WKRG reported. I’m not necessarily out here trying to be disobedient and I’m not breaking any laws or anything like that, it’s just a tattoo. What’s behind me shouldn’t affect the work that’s in front of me.”
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