“Feel My Pipes” Deemed Inappropriate Icebreaker at Law Firm Events

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In April, the St. Petersburg Times reported on sexual-harassment charges made by several female attorneys at Holland & Knight’s Tampa office against Douglas Wright, a partner in the firm.  The women complained of behavior that Wright called "joking and teasing," but which the women called bullying and harassing.

According to documents from the firm’s internal investigation, which were later obtained by the newspaper, women complained that Wright would comment repeatedly on their clothing, sexual habits and partners, and sometimes threatened to fire them when they complained.  They alleged that one common practice of Wright’s was to repeatedly insist, including before groups of people, that the women "feel his pipes," apparently referring to his biceps.  Wright admitted that he sometimes asked people to "feel his pipes" (or, sometimes, his "guns"), but said the expression derived from something a client once said about his "atypical physique," and that he had adopted it as "sort of an icebreaker with new people."  And nothing makes new people more comfortable than being asked to feel someone.

The firm’s investigatory committee stated in 2004 that it found the allegations "generally credible" and that Wright had violated the firm’s harassment policy, and it made a variety of recommendations to the managing partner, including that Wright be instructed not to ask or require employess to "feel his muscles, guns and/or pipes," stop asking associates about their sex lives, and not retaliate against anyone who complained.  The committee said such actions were especially necessary because Wright had held leadership positions at the firm and had "made questionable use of the power inherent in those positions."

Six months later, the firm did the only logical thing.  It promoted him. Wright was made third-in-command, but surrendered his promotion after the committee report was leaked to the newspaper.

You can read excerpts from the allegations, from Wright’s statement, and various other items at the link below.

St. Petersburg Times (quotes from internal report)
St. Petersburg Times (editorial)