“Too Sensual” Woman Files Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Amy Erin Blakely, a former Assistant Director at Devereux Foundation, has filed suit against her ex-employer for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation. According to a news report on My Fox LA, Blakely alleges that her supervisors constantly referred to her large breasts as “distracting” and this “made me feel extremely devalued. It made me feel ashamed at the way I looked and of my femininity and of my body…I would use the side door and hide from those managers because I didn’t want to be subjected to more humiliation.”

Allegedly, Blakely had experienced sexual harassment for 5 years from 2003 to 2008. Then, in 2008, a change of management only worsened the problems. She complained internally. But this did not change the behavior of her supervisors. Instead, her complaints resulted in her receiving a reprimand. Her “upward mobility” in the organization ceased. A year later, Blakely made a second internal sexual harassment claim. The very next day, she got fired.

Blakely is seeking punitive and compensatory damages for discrimination, harassment, and violation of the whistleblower statute. The Devereux Foundation has denied Blakely’s allegations, stating “we have a deep and abiding respect for women in our organization, as evidenced by the fact that more than 50% of our senior leadership team is female.”

A similar case involving Debrahlee Lorenzana, a banker, alleged similar complaints of being sexually harassed for being “too sexy.” Lorenzana sued her employer, CitiBank, for sexual harassment and retaliation. Lorenzana was allegedly told not to “wear classic high-heeled business shoes, as this purportedly drew attention to her body in a manner that was upsetting to her easily distracted male managers.”

In an interview with the Village Voice, Lorenzana said: “I could have worn a paper bag, and it would not have mattered… if it wasn’t my shirt, it was my pants. If it wasn’t my pants, it was my shoes. They picked on me every single day.”

The sexual harassment allegations of Erin Blakely and Debrahlee Lorenzana have attracted tremendous media attention over the past several months and have stirred a lively debate in classrooms and online about how attractive women should comport themselves in the workplace – and what actions companies should take to prevent harassment, discrimination, and other kinds of mistreatment from organically arising. These issues can get thorny, ethically complicated, and personal. Many potential claimants only have a vague understanding of their rights and responsibilities under the law.

If you or someone you care about has been sexually harassed or discriminated against at work, the team at Joseph & Kirschenbaum can provide a practical and free consultation for you. Call the offices now to schedule your consultation – (212) 688-5640 – or learn about at JHLLP at www.jhllp.com.