Secretary Required to Wear Heels. Trips. Sues.

Discrimination lawsuits are being filed more often by employees and receiving lots of media attention.

Take the lawsuit filed by Denise Fitzhenry, former secretary at the Detroit, Mich., law firm of Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn. The policy of that workplace was for secretaries to wear high heels.

Fitzhenry tripped after a heel got caught in the carpet of the office, and she suffered a back injury. That required surgery and under the Family and Medical Leave Act she took a leave of absence. Upon return to work, she requested "reasonable accommodation of her disability." She was denied this by her employer. Then she had to undergo another medical procedure. For that she took another leave of absence. When she returned to work she was assigned a job that increased her injury. As a result she took another leave. When she was ready to return, the law firm informed her it had no open positions; therefore, she would be terminated.

What might assist the plaintiff, at least in the media, is that the atmosphere at the law firm resembles the sexist workplace of 'Mad Men,' claims her lawyer, Deborah Gordon. Fitzhenry's boss, the head of the firm, was allegedly overbearing and demanding. Will the negative publicity -- that is, damage to the brand -- encourage the defendant to settle?

What will assist the plaintiff in court is that she received a right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That means a federal claim is part of her lawsuit.

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darlene

i feel her pain. after 25 years as a portfolio manager in DC, grad school education and five years teaching part-time at a state university, i relocated to NC to take a comparable position (which i was led to believe was a lateral) only to be subjected to a mandatory SPELLING test. yes, spelling. it went downhill from there. albeit raleigh and RTP (the research triangle area) is espoused for its progressiveness in life sciences and information technology, sadly the employer mentality (and those in its employ purporting to be "HR" professionals) maintains a 1950s era mindset insofar as the "haves" (i.e., a J.D.) and the "have nots" (i.e., less than a J.D. but perhaps more education in totality). at this particular firm us "gals" weren't instructed to wear heels but we were prohibited absolutely from chewing gum or wearing scent (not that i do either but it's the principle). alas, the classic "small fish in a big pond" mentality. and folks claim DC is corrupt. i beg to differ. that being said, as we all know, those big fish bite the bait and succumb eventually -- often sooner rather than later .... as mother always said, "everything that goes around comes around."

October 21 2010 at 3:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
IDFEIN

There are handicapped terrorists (handicapped persons who employ their disabilities as tools for blackmail.). These handicapped terrorists are aided and abetted by unethical and unscrupulous lawyers who conspire and cooperate with the handicapped terrorists and share in the ill gotten gains from the legal blackmail. One case involved a transit company employee who wanted the position of a subway motorman, but the employee was nearly 400 pounds and couldn't fit into the motorman's cab. He requested reasonable accommodation requiring the transit company to build a special subway car with a cab to fit him. The EEOC sided with the transit company. Since in the U.S. anyone can file a suit against anyone else and any organization, the employee filed a law suit that the court promptly dismissed. Another case involved a mechanic for a large national trucking firm; the employee wanted the assignment as a driver of a 18 wheel tractor trailer. However, the employee was suffering from a serious heart disease which was so bad he was taking experimental drugs. The EEOC sided with the employer. The employee's lawyer appealed up to the Supreme Court which refused to hear the appeal. A third case involved a handicapped woman confined to a wheelchair who traveled the state seeking out financially defenseless merchants. When she found a enterprise that did not provide her the physical access she felt she was entitled to as a handicapped person, she would file suit against the merchant. Then her lawyer would negotiate a fee with the merchant so that the handicapped woman would drop her complaint. Even though the handicapped discrimination complaint had no merit, the merchant couldn't afford to legally fight the complaint and would settle. Then the woman and lawyer would share the proceeds. There was one incident with which I am familiar involving this terrorist. I participate in folk dancing. In an adjoining county there was a small cafe that permitted folk dancers to perform weeknights after 8 PM. There was no attendance fee for the public; the owners didn't charge the dancers a fee to use the stage. It was just people having a good time. The stage was an open area in the back of the cafe which was raised. The music was most often provided by tape. One evening the handicapped terrorist showed up. Then she filed a handicapped discrimination complaint against the cafe owners, a husband and wife, because she couldn't get on the stage to dance. She had traveled across 3 counties to get to the cafe. The couple paid off the woman and lawyer to get the complaint dropped. The couple decided to stop the folk dancing for financial protection. Sometime later I read about her in a local newspaper.

I normally don't comment to articles because the majority of the comments, like the comments to this article, are offensive, extremist, ignorant and stupid. The upside to those type of comments is proof that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is alive and well. I pray my comments provide some intelligent light and discussion of the subject.

October 21 2010 at 2:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
IDFEIN

There are handicapped terrorists (handicapped persons who employ their disabilities as tools for blackmail.). These handicapped terrorists are aided and abetted by unethical and unscrupulous lawyers who conspire and cooperate with the handicapped terrorists and share in the ill gotten gains from the legal blackmail. One case involved a transit company employee who wanted the position of a subway motorman, but the employee was nearly 400 pounds and couldn't fit into the motorman's cab. He requested reasonable accommodation requiring the transit company to build a special subway car with a cab to fit him. The EEOC sided with the transit company. Since in the U.S. anyone can file a suit against anyone else and any organization, the employee filed a law suit that the court promptly dismissed. Another case involved a mechanic for a large national trucking firm; the employee wanted the assignment as a driver of a 18 wheel tractor trailer. However, the employee was suffering from a serious heart disease which was so bad he was taking experimental drugs. The EEOC sided with the employer. The employee's lawyer appealed up to the Supreme Court which refused to hear the appeal. A third case involved a handicapped woman confined to a wheelchair who traveled the state seeking out financially defenseless merchants. When she found a enterprise that did not provide her the physical access she felt she was entitled to as a handicapped person, she would file suit against the merchant. Then her lawyer would negotiate a fee with the merchant so that the handicapped woman would drop her complaint. Even though the handicapped discrimination complaint had no merit, the merchant couldn't afford to legally fight the complaint and would settle. Then the woman and lawyer would share the proceeds. There was one incident with which I am familiar involving this terrorist. I participate in folk dancing. In an adjoining county there was a small cafe that permitted folk dancers to perform weeknights after 8 PM. There was no attendance fee for the public; the owners didn't charge the dancers a fee to use the stage. It was just people having a good time. The stage was an open area in the back of the cafe which was raised. The music was most often provided by tape. One evening the handicapped terrorist showed up. Then she filed a handicapped discrimination complaint against the cafe owners, a husband and wife, because she couldn't get on the stage to dance. She had traveled across 3 counties to get to the cafe. The couple paid off the woman and lawyer to get the complaint dropped. The couple decided to stop the folk dancing for financial protection. Sometime later I read about her in a local newspaper.

I normally don't comment to articles because the majority of the comments, like the comments to this article, are offensive, extremist, ignorant and stupid. The upside to those type of comments is proof that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is alive and well. I pray my comments provide some intelligent light and discussion of the subject.

October 21 2010 at 2:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jennifer

first; the fact they made her wear heels is discriminatory unless they made men also wear heels. Second; she was injured, made to work in a position where she was furtuer injured, then fired. Anyone who owns a business should be familiar with the rules on accomidating workers with injuries and other handicaps. Third; any doctor will tell you that heels over one and a half inches are going to cause long term back injuries. This office should be taken to court for discriminatory and illegal practices. And for all you men who made comments, try walking all day on your toes, in heels. By noon your back will hurt so much you will be in tears. To this person who say she wanted to be 'sexy' at work... a professional woman can 'feel' sexy without looking like a hooker. Heels are not sexy.

October 21 2010 at 2:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Just saying

To all of you who are saying good for her and it is sexist, etc for the employer: this is why we are having the problems we are having in this country, and we will never get rid of them as long as there is this mentality, that the employer has to change to accomodate the employee, not the other way around. If you are applying for a job, and there are requirements you don't like for that job, you look for another one. Employers should be able to have the rules they want to have. And I don't see how getting your heel caught in carpet can be so bad to require multiple surgeries. Plus that being a law firm, I am sure they were aware of the possibility of being sued if there was something to be sued about. I think this woman has no case, and her lawyer is an ambulance chaser. Being that this is a free country (barely) she has the right to sue, and she also has the right to loose.

October 21 2010 at 2:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Liz

Sorry to say ,but if it werent the rug it would have been the marble floor.Lawsuits are getting out of hand....

October 21 2010 at 1:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
starchildlucy

I am wondering if there is a definition to how high these "high heels" should be. I wear 1 inch heels for simple safety sake and still manage a professional bearing. But if "high heels" are defined as 3 - 5 inches, then that is nothing more than a sexist placement of women in the workplace. Talk to any credible podiatrist or orthopedist - women who wear "high heels" consistently have a greater incidence of ankle, knee, and back injuries. The heels force the bodies alignment into an unnatural position creating a balance situation that leads to falls. If I were her, I would be sueing the firm for workman's comp. She addressed the "high heels" requirement. Their failure to maintain a safe working environment caused her to fall and subsequent surgeries.

October 21 2010 at 1:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Garth Calderhead

Hookers and sex kittens wear high heels because they want to showcase their legs. Since Eve tempted adam with an apple (read vagi#a)and caused sin and corruption women have used sex to ruin the world for both genders. Women know men can not keep their eyes off women and they flaunt there sex to titillate men and keep them semi-aroused so they can manipulate what they want out of them. It may sound crude to say that women and their "charms" are the cause of all evil but they certainly contribute by causing wars (Helen of Troy, Cleopatra) and marrying rich men to gain their fortunes. A woman barely clothed in the workplace is a recipe for disaster. No, I do not think a full burnoose is needed but ankle length dresses and blouses that cover the ful bodice should be the manddatory dress code. Also, makeup is another way they try to entice men. thhis causes divorce and adultery by conniving women who are anti-man and family,

October 21 2010 at 1:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kpingzing

Jmaes when you talk about practicality maybe she should have chosen a job where they dont have to wear heels. She is a whiner and just another in a long line looking for something for nothing. The new progressive mentality.

October 21 2010 at 1:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
b e 1 r u 7

We're not talking about a requirement to wear an article of clothing that is more safe. Instead they require you to wear shoes that are actually more dangerous. This is why there is a lawsuit. Now that you've been clued in maybe you try starting to wearing high heels to your job and see how it feels.

October 21 2010 at 1:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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