Kat Von D is being sued by a former employee who says the tattoo artist fired her for voicing concerns about COVID

·4 min read
Kat Von D at a Mercy for Animals event in September 2019.
Kat Von D ran High Voltage Tattoo in California between 2007 and 2021.Phillip Faraone/Stringer/Getty Images
  • Kat Von D is being sued by the former manager of her High Voltage Tattoo shop.

  • Stephanie Davidson alleges that Von D fired her after she raised concerns about COVID-19 at work.

  • She also claims Von D mocked safety precautions and failed to pay her properly.

Kat Von D is being sued by a former employee who claims she was wrongfully terminated after voicing concerns about COVID-19 at work.

Stephanie Davidson worked as a manager of Von D's High Voltage Tattoo studio in California between 2017 and 2020, according to a complaint filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court this month. The complaint says the studio was required to shut down at the start of the pandemic, and began reopening around June 2020. It was then that Davidson was let go, the complaint says.

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She's now seeking unspecified damages, and alleges that she faced retaliation, discrimination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, unlawful business practices, and wrongful termination, among other issues, while working under the celebrity tattoo artist. She also claims in the complaint that Von D failed to pay her an hourly minimum wage or base salary — instead providing her with a "ten percent share of every tattoo paid for each day, which on some days was $0."

Attorneys for Davidson told Insider that they filed the lawsuit to hold Von D "accountable for her unlawful behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic." Representatives for Von D did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

During the government-mandated shutdown of business in March 2020, the High Voltage founder and her employees — including Davidson — chatted in a group text message, according to the complaint. It was there that Von D often "questioned whether the pandemic was real," the complaint states.

Later on April 28, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a phased reopening plan — which, at the time, did not include tattoo shops as they were considered high-risk. According to the complaint, however, Davidson — who says she has Type 1 diabetes — was expected "to work illegally in violation of the Stay at Home orders" while the business was operating at some capacity during the mandated lockdown period.

Von D planned to "open privately" and cover the front entrance of the shop so that the public couldn't see inside, according to the complaint. She planned to do so until California's "idiot governor lifts this ridiculous lock down," she said in a text to Davidson and another employee, the complaint says.

"Today the barber shop is open for business and I don't understand why we are unable to open," Von D added in the text cited in the complaint, seemingly referencing Trendsetters Barbershop, an adjacent business. "So I cannot stand by and let high voltage die, and need to get back to work even if it's just for appointments for the time being."

It was then that Davidson "inquired about safety protocols at the shop" before returning to her work. Her concerns were "dismissed," according to the complaint, with Von D stating in text messages: "please know that I will not be wearing masks and refuse to do so."

Later in June when the shop was legally allowed to reopen to the public, Von D reiterated her stance on masks, contact tracing, temperature checks, and other COVID safety protocols, according to the complaint, and argued that masks could "restrict" oxygen and cause customers to pass out. (Doctors have debunked such claims, however, and said wearing them does not affect oxygen levels.)

Those who weren't comfortable returning to the shop were instructed to no longer work for Von D, according to the complaint, while those who remained and took precautions faced "disparaging remarks."

"You're going to wear a maxi pad on your face?" Von D said to one employee who wore a mask, according to the complaint. She also criticized another employee by saying they lived in "a state of fear based on mainstream media narrative," the complaint says.

After June 19 — when the complaint says High Voltage Tattoo legally reopened without safety protocols in place — Davidson took her concerns to the Governor's Office and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Two weeks after doing so, according to the complaint, she was informed that her job had been given to another person.

"While she has attempted to obtain employment, she has been unable to find consistent employment since then and continues to suffer lost income," the complaint says of Davidson. "She also suffered and continues to suffer ongoing emotional distress as a result of her termination."

Davidson's attorneys told Insider that Von D "puts profits and publicity over the health of her employees and the safety of her customers."

"She intentionally and unlawfully ignored state laws and regulations created to protect both workers and the public," they said. "No matter what any business owner's beliefs may be, you cannot ignore the law and force employees to choose between risking their health or keeping their job. When you do, there are consequences. She will be held accountable for her malicious actions."

Read the original article on Insider