Kay’Ana Adams, an Alabama firefighter, was fired after the department determined that her tattoo violates its policy. According to WKRG, Adams worked at the Mobile Fire Department Maryvale station in Mobile, Alabama for nine months before she was fired.
The firefighter got her tattoo in June, showing it off on the back of her head. Adams said she didn’t think she violated the fire department’s policy, which prohibits “tattoos on the face or neck.”
“Hiring people before, during and after me with neck tattoos more prominent than mine was also kind of impactful in that as well,” Adams told WKRG. “I figured mine could be done in decency and order. I could also, based off the rules, cover it up.”
Adams, however, found herself in trouble when when somebody put in a complaint about her ink.
“The next thing I knew I was being investigated for it, interrogated behind it, and then they made their decision that I was in violation of policy,” she said.
According to Adams, the city first gave her the option to grow her hair out and hide the tattoo. The firefighter said she did as she was told.
A few weeks later, however, Adams said there was another complaint about her hair being grown out and violating the city’s policy.
“We have different textures of hair,” said Adams, who is a Black woman. “So, you have no idea how long it takes for my hair to grow.”
According to Adams, the department changed the policy three months after she got her tattoo. The new policy prohibits head tattoos above the neckline.
When a captain at her station took a photo of the back of Adams’ head on Nov. 10, the terminated firefighter said her tattoo was no longer visible. Still, Adams said she was fired on the day the photo was taken.
“Definitely blindsided, I never thought it would come to this, especially considering I was in compliance. 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,” Adams said. “What’s behind me shouldn’t affect the work that’s in front of me.”
Adams said she wasn’t simply fired for her head tattoo and hair. The former firefighter, who filed one grievance about the tattoo complaint against her, believes she was terminated because she spoke up about her concerns at the workplace.
The Alabama woman also filed complaints about harassment and antagonization, including sexist statements she allegedly heard from two male firefighters at her station.
Adams once again raised concerns during a training session at the department.
“It was rope week and a decent amount of people and the other half of the classroom were discussing, trying to tie nooses,” she said. “And, you know, instinctively, I guess I just kind of stood up and said, ‘you know, if you want to learn how to do that, I think that it’s best you do that on your free time’.”
Adams said she relayed her concerns to Captain Jason Craig and Captain Rodrick Shoots, who are members of the Black Progressive Firefighters Association.
The two captains were disciplined after defending Adams as she faced trouble for her tattoo. Craig was suspended and Shoots was fired.
In a statement to WKRG, Public Safety Director Lawrence Battiste said Shoots was terminated for “attempting to obstruct a valid order from a superior officer, ignoring orders and using disrespectful and defiant language to a superior officer.”
Craig, according to Battiste, was suspended for 30 days for “insubordination, failure to follow orders from a superior officer and failure to investigate, document and report a violation of MFRD policy.”