A Florida woman executive is suing her former employer for gender discrimination, claiming she was told to hide her large breasts because they were too large and were distracting to other employees.
Amy-Erin Blakely claims she endured six years of harassment about the size of her chest at the Devereux Foundation, the country’s largest not-for-profit provider of children’s mental health services in Orlando, Florida.
The former executive said she filed two internal grievances with the company but instead of receiving help, she was terminated the next day. “No woman should ever be subjected to such sexist and derogatory remarks,” said Amy-Erin Blakely.
Blakely said she’s a victim of discrimination in the workplace. The 43-year-old former assistant executive director said she was told other employees were distracted by the size of her breasts and that she was too sensual for further promotion.
“It was really a nightmare, because every day I had great trepidation and fear that I was going to either be humiliated, harassed or lose my job because of the way I looked, not based on my performance at all. My performance was exemplary.”
Miss Blakely has said she “always dressed professionally”. Blakely hired attorney Gloria Allred, a lawyer noted for taking on several high profile clients, including Rachel Uchitel, an alleged mistress of the golfer Tiger Woods.
The Florida resident worked for Devereux for about 13 years and said she was promoted more than a dozen times, but she said the remarks began in 2003 when she was promoted to assistant executive director of operations at the Florida office.
“I filed two grievances – one in the spring of 2009 and then one in the fall of 2009. The first one was inappropriately investigated and I was reprimanded for that. The second grievance was followed by me being terminated the next morning,” said Blakely.
Blakely’s suit is similar to one filed earlier this year by New York Citibank employee Debrahlee Lorenzana, who claimed she was sacked from her job with Citibank for being ‘too sexy.’ The 33-year-old banker also alleged she was told her looks were too distracting to male coworkers.
In Blakely’s case, Robert Kreider, President and CEO of Devereux Florida, responded with this statement:
“As we always would, we took the allegations of our former employee seriously. We carefully investigated and concluded her claims are entirely without merit.
They are either spurious or twisted in content and context to be deliberately inflammatory. We did not terminate her for the reasons she claims in her suit and she was not discriminated against. We plan to vigorously defend against her complaints.
Ms. Allred’s suggestion that we have a culture that allows gender discrimination is offensive. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We are proud of our deep tradition of respect for women and the fact that more than 50 percent of our senior leadership team is female. We never forget that we were founded by a woman, at a time in history when women were not even afforded the right to vote.
Our entire organizational culture, one that deeply values the contributions of women leaders, exists solely because of a woman. This is a wonderful place for women to work and advance their careers. For anyone to try and paint a different picture of our organization is shameful.
For nearly 100 years we have been dedicated to empowering and saving lives. We will not be distracted from that mission by anything or anyone.”
Blakely’s lawsuit is seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as the cost of her attorney’s fees.
Devereux Foundation endeavors to make a difference in the lives of people with behavioral, psychological, intellectual, or neurological problems.
A not-for-profit organization, Devereux serves children, adolescents, adults and their families through about 20 centers in about a dozen states. Its offerings include hospitalization, group homes, respite care, family counseling, and vocational training.
Devereux also conducts behavioral health research and provides consulting services for other organizations with similar concerns. The group’s work began in 1912 when a Philadelphia educator, Helena Devereux, started working with three special education students in her parents’ house. [via The Telegraph (UK) and ABC News]
Do you think suits like this have merit? Have you have been on the receiving end of comments about your body at work? Tell us in the comments below!