When faced with harassment of any sort, an employee should complain about it. That bit of advice seems obvious. But, if you are a single mother, or if you simply like your job other than the harassment, that advice is not so simple. Ruth Piller worked as a lawyer at a large Houston law firm. She was the subject of photo-shopped pictures of herself over women wearing bikinis, and sushi. She did not complain abut the emails. She eventually was terminated in October, 2011. See Texas Lawyer report. She has now filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding her former employer, Hays, McConn, Rice and Pickering.
Her EEOC complaint alleges that Hays, McConn allowed a practice of exposing female partners and associates to sexually harassing conduct. The chief harasser was shareholder Staton M. Childers, says the complaint. Ms. Piller also claims the firm did not provide accommodations for her disability, a neurological disorder. She says she was asked to go out on long-term disabilty leave, when her billable hours became low. She did so and was then terminated after 90 days.
The firm issued a statement saying they wished she had complained during her employment. The firm assures they would have taken some action. They also claim that Ms. Piller joined in the emails and even initiated the conduct about which she now complains. The firm claims they hired an outside investigator to look into the emails and photos. The outside investigator found no violation of law firm policy.
I find it hard to believe any investigator would not find these photos and comments in violation of something. See Houston Press blogs for more detail. According to Houston Press, Mr. Childers sent out salacious, photo-shopped emails about other female employees at the firm.
Victims of discrimination do often try to "go along to get along." It would have been better had she complained at the time. But, much will depend on the context in which she supposedly participated in the objectionable conduct. It is remarkable that the newspaper obtained a copy of her charge. Only the EEOC, the employee and the employer would have a copy. EEOC charges are not public record.