MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — A lawsuit, filed against the city of Mobile, months after three Mobile firefighters were fired or suspended over a new tattoo. Now, two of them are taking legal action for what they believe was discrimination.
Fire captains Rodrick Shoots and Jason Craig believe they were wrongfully terminated, or suspended for, what they describe as standing up for firefighter, Kay’Ana Adams after she got a tattoo on the back of her head.
In the discrimination-retaliation lawsuit, it alleges Craig, who was Adams’ Captain at the time, was asked to change Adam’s excellent grade sheet evaluation in order to get her fired, without having to use her tattoo as the reason for her termination but Craig refused to do so, according to the lawsuit.
News 5 spoke to one of their attorneys Joseph Cannizzo about the case.
“There was a discussion from the fire department that she had a tattoo that supposedly violated their dress code policy, but really, if you look at tattoos that are on plenty of the other fire department members, they are in far more visible spots than where Kay’Ana’s is,” said Cannizzo, with Lento Law Group. “Hers is on the back of her head and when her hair grows, you can hardly see it, so how can you say that that’s what the issue was. It seems apparent that that was not really the cause of her termination, and that it was a discrimination issue.”
When Adams got the tattoo in June 2022, she says she believed it followed the fire department’s policy, which then prohibited “tattoos on the face or neck.”
After a three-month back and forth between captain Rodrick Shoots, captain Craig, Adams and the fire department over the tattoo, the policy was changed to also prohibit head tattoos, above the neckline.
On the day Adams was terminated, a picture was taken of the back of her head. Her tattoo was covered by her hair and collared shirt. It was no longer visible.
Adams believes she was fired, not just because of her tattoo, but because she spoke up about, what she calls “sexist and racist” comments while she was a trainee and new firefighter on the department.
Previously, the city of Mobile spokesperson confirmed to News 5 that at least one other firefighter had a neck tattoo that violated the department policy. He was not terminated but instead, was allowed to cover it up until it was removed.
Cannizzo says his hopes are to hold the city of Mobile and the fire department accountable.
“So that situations like this can’t happen again. I mean, it’s an injustice that someone who is serving the community as a firefighter in the fire department, and two captains, for that matter, should be so blatantly terminated wrongfully for sticking up for the rights of another member of their department,” said Cannizzo. “It’s equality for all, not some.”
Cannizzo told News 5, Craig and Shoots will be seeking punitive damages. The amount has not been determined yet.
“They are now without a salary that they would have otherwise been entitled to had they not been disciplined,” said Cannizzo.
WKRG reached out to both the city of Mobile and Mobile Fire-Rescue for comment. The city declined, saying they cannot speak on pending litigation. Mobile-Fire Rescue has not gotten back with us.