Law.com reports that Denise Fitzhenry, a former executive assistant to the chairman of 215-lawyer firm Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn, LLP, has filed suit against the firm in U.S. District Court in Detroit, alleging that she was discriminated against after suffering an injury due to wearing required high heels.
According to the complaint, Fitzhenry was employed as an executive assistant to Alan Schwartz in October 2005, and was an exemplary employee. In February 2007, Fitzhenry suffered an injury at work, which required extensive medical treatment, including back surgery.
When Fitzhenry initially returned to work, she requested reasonable accommodations of her disability, including reduced hours, regular breaks, and no lifting of heavy objects. Fitzhenry alleges that Schwartz refused to honor the requests and instead was extremely hostile. She tried to transfer to a different position with the firm, but was told "the only way she could get away from [Schwartz] was to leave the firm." Eventually, she was demoted to the word processing pool, and then terminated after she returned from a subsequent medical leave. Her complaint also alleges the firm violated the FMLA act.
Fitzhenry's attorney claims the firm required secretaries to wear high heels in an atmosphere "more akin to an episode of Mad Men than a modern workplace," and that Fitzhenry's injury was caused by catching one of her high heels in the carpet at work. The State Bar of Michigan Blog rather drolly asks "Does This Suit Against Honigman Have Legs Without High Heels?" Of course, it will be up to the court to determine whether her legal claims have merit, but I'm interested in the assertion that any law firm in this day and age might still require female employees to wear high heels to work.
I have nothing against high heels, but who decides how high? For example, I think a two-inch heel is wicked high, and I can fall off those in a skinny minute. But one of my very fashionable co-workers thinks nothing of running around the courthouse in absolutely fabulous designer three-inch heels. But she also wears super cute flats when she feels like it.
Readers, where do you stand (honestly, no pun intended) on the high heel issue? For or against? Moderate or stilletto? Do you work for a firm that has a Mad Men dress code for women, such as skirts only and pantyhose required at all times?
By the way, my husband and I watched the first three episodes of Mad Men on DVD, but had to give it up, because it was frankly unbelievably depressing and made one want to commit a slow and dreary suicide via heavy midday drinking and chain-smoking.