Mobile, Alabama, firefighter Kay’Ana Adams was recently terminated from her job due to a tattoo.
Her tattoo features flowers, a skeleton spine and hands.
Adams was hired in June 2022 at the Mobile Fire Department Maryvale station on Dauphin Island Parkway. She sported her beck tattoo for nine months before being terminated.
According to WKRG, Adams said, “Hiring people before, during and after me with neck tattoos more prominent than mine was also kind of impactful in that as well. I figured mine could be done in decency and order. I could also, based off the rules, cover it up.”
However, the department ultimately decided to terminate her employment, citing a violation of the department’s policy, which prohibited “tattoos on the face or neck.”
“Somebody put in a complaint in regard to my tattoo, and the next thing I know, I was being investigated for it, interrogated behind it, and then they made their decision that I was in violation of policy,” said Adams.
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The department allegedly changed its policy three months after Adams got her tattoo prohibiting head tattoos above the neckline.
However, on November 10, when a captain took a photo of Adams’ head, her tattoo was no longer visible due to her hair growth.
Adams, a Black woman, said, “We have different textures of hair. So, you have no idea how long it takes for my hair to grow.”
Adams still received termination, although her tattoo was no longer visible, and she was in compliance with the department’s grooming policy.
“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.”
The incident sparked a debate about whether or not Adams’ tattoo should have led to her termination. Her supporters argued that a tattoo is a form of self-expression and that the department’s grooming policy is outdated and overly restrictive. Others have pointed out that she should be held to a higher standard as a public servant and that her tattoo could be seen as unprofessional.
This unfortunate incident highlights the need for employers to review their grooming policies and be more inclusive and respectful of their employees’ diverse backgrounds and cultures.