Fla. firefighter told to cut his hair or go home

“His hair was up, and it was legal," said District Fire Chief Terrance Jones, a spokesman for the Brotherhood of Firefighters


By Leila Merrill

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A firefighter who arrived for an overtime shift at a Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department station said the chief told him to either go home or go into the bathroom to cut his hair because it was too thick.

The firefighter went home, News4Jax reported.

“This isn’t the first time grooming has become an issue for local Black fighters,” said Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters.
“This isn’t the first time grooming has become an issue for local Black fighters,” said Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters. (Photo/Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department)

“That’s an unlawful order because the only way we can send a firefighter home is if we suspect him or her of being under influence of some type of drug,” said District Fire Chief Terrance Jones, spokesman for the Brotherhood of Firefighters.

Jones said the chief could not act alone and that another fire official has to agree with the discipline. Jones also said the firefighter’s hair was in line with regulations.

“His hair was up, and it was legal. We have females on the job whose hair is much longer than his,” Jones said.

As for the question of whether firefighters should be allowed to have braids and dreadlocks, Chief Keith Powers provided the following statement to the TV station.

“As a policy, JFRD does not comment on specific personnel matters. That being said, JFRD Chief Officers are required by policy to maintain order and discipline within the companies in their districts and shall take necessary action to correct any deficiencies found. I fully support JFRD Chief Officers in their efforts to ensure personnel are properly groomed and present a professional public image as required by a longstanding department policy. In fact, during probation all new firefighters are provided a copy of all JFRD policies and are tested on them to ensure a complete understanding.”

News4JAX quoted from the policy, which was updated last August. It says:

  • “Hairstyles that interfere with personal protective equipment are not allowed”
  • “Hair should be neat, clean, and styled to present a well-groomed appearance”
  • “Hair should not exceed 2 inches in thickness”
  • “Hair on the side of the head shall not extend below the bottom of the ear and on the back of the head shall not extend to top of the collar”

Many of the same requirements apply for female firefighters, but they can restrain it or wear it up.

Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters, is supporting the firefighter.

“(The firefighter) is utilizing his rights under our Collective Bargaining Agreement and his union will be guiding him through the grievance process," he said. "This isn’t the first time grooming has become an issue for local Black fighters.”

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