Amy-Erin Blakely, a former employee of The Devereux Foundation, is suing them for firing her in 2009 “after she filed two complaints about gender discrimination,” The Huffington Post reports. Blakely claims she she was harassed about the size of her breasts from 2003 to 2008. She was told that “her chest was distracting for others and that she was too sensual to be promoted.”
Blakely has retained Gloria Allred, who also represented single mom Debrahlee Lorenzana when she took on Citibank earlier this year, accusing them of firing her for being distracting to look at due to her voluptuous figure. Unlike Lorenzana, however, Blakely was fired only after informing her company that she was being harassed, which means her story is likely to, um, carry more weight.
Blakely says “she always dressed professionally for her job at the nonprofit provider of children’s mental health services.” She also claims her curvy figure prevented her from being promoted. ”No woman should be subjected to such sexist and derogatory remarks,” a visibly upset Blakely said at a press conference. She added, “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.”
The Devereux Foundation is the country’s largest non-profit provider of mental health services for children. The Devereux Foundation says the allegations are “purposefully inflammatory, and either spurious or twisted in content and context. In no way do these allegations represent the truth about our organization or our staff.”
There is no doubt that it takes great courage to stand up to institutionalized harassment, and of course it remains to be seen whether Blakely’s claims will be validated. As we watch our daughters grow, and help them develop pride in their physical appearance, how do we groom their desire to look good while simultaneously reinforcing the fact that appearance, while important, should not summarily define a person? Young women today certainly feel empowered to speak out against street harassment, but workplace harassment can be much harder to fight. Amy Erin Blakely’s bravery is something we should share with our daughters, reminding them that it’s all right to fight.