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Single Mom Fired From Citi Suing for Sexual Harassment

By carolyncastiglia |

Can a woman be so drop-dead gorgeous that she’s distracting to look at, even in a turtleneck?  That’s what former Citibank employee Debrahlee Lorenzana thinks.

The 33-year-old single mother was recently, um, canned from Citi because – she says – her employers found her wardrobe to be unprofessional.  She feels she was discriminated against for being too beautiful and is suing Citi for sexual harassment.

You know, Debrahlee, we have a lot in common.  I’m also a 33-year-old single mother.  In fact, I’m quite sure the only reason I’m not dating anyone right now is because I’m too hot.  Men just can’t handle this.  Friday night, I was hosting a show, and someone said, “You look hot tonight!”  And I thought, “Does she mean sweaty?”  Cuz I am that hot.  HOT.

According to the Daily News, Lorenzana said higher-ups told her, “‘Oh, your pants are too tight. You cannot wear turtlenecks. You cannot wear pencil skirts because you draw too much attention.’”  Now, I’m not trying to make light of what might be a serious situation, because I know how difficult it can be as a woman to conform to corporate dress, especially during the summer months.  I temped at various Wall Street firms for years, and I once got in trouble for wearing well-tailored black capri pants that fell below the knee.  It was one of those 98 degree days in New York and I got derided for wearing “shorts.”  Meanwhile, my colleagues in their much shorter pencil skirts were considered appropriately dressed.  (Another firm allowed me to wear jeans for months as an admin, until finally one of my favorite guys on the sales desk said, “You know, I don’t care if you wear jeans, but I think the other girls are getting jealous.”)

I’m just saying, Lorenzana makes it sound like she simply can’t control the ravages of her beauty and that no matter what she wore she was left feeling helpless.  There are photos of her in various clingy outfits all over the Internet, and while I don’t think they’re at all unprofessional, it doesn’t seem like she went out of her way to minimize the “flounce,” as a friend of mine was once was chided for.  Too much flounce in the workplace!  Maybe she should have just come to work naked?

The level of machismo in banking culture varies from firm to firm, but come on, there are beautiful women all over Wall Street.  There’s something about this story that just doesn’t smell right to me.  The actual reason Citi gave for firing her is never once mentioned in any of the articles I’ve come across on the subject.  I’m not saying she wasn’t made painfully aware of her good looks while at work, I’m just saying, something else had to have been up.

Lorenzana’s lawyer, Jack Tuckner, says her interactions with the media have landed her in trouble with her current employer, JP Morgan Chase, who “has threatened to fire her for violating the company’s code of conduct because of her comments.”  Tuckner thinks Lorenzana is being used as a scapegoat to draw attention away from banking’s real dirty laundry. 

“She’s making this industry look bad when we have Goldman Sachs selling exotic derivatives and cheating their clients behind their backs?” Tuckner told the Village Voice. “These are the ‘banksters’ of the world. Why they are so tone deaf is really unfathomable.”

In a fashion op-ed for the Daily News, Amy Diluna writes, “In curve-hugging styles that show off the bod she was blessed with, she channels Christina Hendricks’ Joan on Mad Men.”  Maybe that’s the problem.  In the Mad Men era, women were still openly sexualized and objectified in the workplace, and on Wall Street, not much has changed.  It seems strange to me that in an industry still pretty rife with misogyny a woman would be shunned for being sexy.  I’m surprised they didn’t make her Vice President of Internal Affairs.

Momlogic interviewed Lorenzana this weekend and asked what she hoped would come of all the media attention she’s getting surrounding her lawsuit.  She says she hopes to “teach [Citibank] a lesson and basically help all those single mothers out there who have been harassed.”  She continues, “Because you’re single and there’s only one family income, sometimes you have to put up with… harassment at work.  And we just stay quiet because at the end of the day, we need to feed our children.  Sometimes we overlook and let things pass that aren’t right, and I just want to tell the single moms to get up and stand up!”

Thank you, Debrahlee.  I, for one, am going to stand up now, because my stomach looks much flatter that way.

Photo: Village Voice

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About carolyncastiglia

carolyncastiglia

carolyncastiglia

Carolyn Castiglia is a New York-based comedian/writer wowing audiences with her stand-up and freestyle rap. She’s appeared in TONY, The NY Post, The Idiot’s Guide to Jokes and Life & Style. You can find Carolyn’s writing elsewhere online at MarieClaire.com and The Huffington Post. Read bio and latest posts → Read Carolyn's latest posts →

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12 thoughts on “Single Mom Fired From Citi Suing for Sexual Harassment

  1. Samantha says:

    Ugh. I am with you. I don’t want to pile on the pretty girl (and she does look fabulous in her pictures – you go!), but her experience is not mine at all. In the brief wretched time I spent working in the City (of London) there was no advantage in being plain and shy. Being pretty, funny and flirty was the only way to survive. Ugh ugh ugh.

  2. amanda says:

    I agree. I think there is somehting else going on here. The clothes she wears in her photos cleary emphasize her body. They are great for going out on a date or a play or anything, but, work. Now let’s get serious ladies, we all know when we are playing up our body parts. So does this woman. I’m also not crazy about the whining over having to wear ALL of your clothes during the summer months as men have been doing it for years! Women need to decide what it is they really want. As my daddy taught me a long time ago ‘if you’re going to play with boys, you better be able to keep up with them.’ And that includes wearing a three piece suit if necessary even when it’s a long, hot summer. Thanks for the great article.

  3. carolyncastiglia says:

    @Samantha Indeed. I’ve always thought looks were an important asset in banking. And everywhere else.

  4. carolyncastiglia says:

    @Amanda I hear you. On the one hand, I agree with what you’re saying, but on the other hand I think there’s something dangerous in saying “If you’re going to play with the boys, you better be able to keep up with them.” I don’t think women should be prohibited from looking female or pretty in the workplace, but I also don’t think it’s a great idea to be provocative, either. Men and women in corporate jobs need to wear corporate garb, period.

  5. Livia Scott says:

    I’ve been very intrigued by this story since it broke, especially as a woman who has been sexually harassed in all but three of the jobs she’s ever had as an adult, including BABYSITTING. Jeez. This is a very tricky topic, and I think Carolyn handled it very well, asking great questions and balancing the precarious trappings of the subject with respect for this woman. Plus it’s funny. Well done!

  6. erin says:

    “I’m just saying, Lorenzana makes it sound like she simply can’t control the ravages of her beauty and that no matter what she wore she was left feeling helpless. There are photos of her in various clingy outfits all over the Internet, and while I don’t think they’re at all unprofessional, it doesn’t seem like she went out of her way to minimize the “flounce,” She is a curvy, attractive woman. As jezebel.com says – women are held responsible for the way men react to their bodies. It irks me that so many women are quick to take the “oh she just thinks she’s all that and a bag of chips.. there must be something else to this case” approach. Women need to be on one another’s side when it comes to things like this. Victim blaming does not help you (as a woman) as much as it does not help her either. I feel as though you may have written this without getting all of the facts first. Is it really that hard to believe that a beautiful attractive women with a great figure could be harassed at work?

  7. Joseph says:

    @Amanda and Carolyn: Now that you bring it up, why are men made to wear those kinds of clothes in the summer anyway? I don’t mean to say we need Swimsuit Days at work, but honestly, things like capri pants and cargo shorts are NOT horrifyingly unprofessional. Hell, most people in “corporate garb” are cubicle-dwellers who rarely see non-coworkers anyway; why is it a big deal what they look like? “Corporate garb” hasn’t significantly changed in over a century! Why? It’s been well-researched that comfort improves productivity, so why is the business world still slaving itself to the uncomfortable, impractical fashions of the 1890s?

  8. carolyncastiglia says:

    @Erin – I’m not blaming the victim. My point is I don’t think all the facts are out there in this case. I concede several times in the post that I’m sure she was made to feel uncomfortable at work. She was also potentially making other people feel uncomfortable. This is not like a rape case, where discussing her clothing is the same as saying she asked for it. This incident is all about her clothing. And since I presume none of us worked at Citi with her, we’ll never know the full story of what happened. I don’t think women should be responsible for how men react to their bodies if they’re dressing in business casual. But I think if she was wearing the business casual she claims to have been wearing – the types of things I’ve seen lots of beautiful, sexy, young women wear on Wall Street, then there probably was another reason she was fired. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t sexually harassed. I’m saying they are potentially and probably two separate issues and she seems to be conflating them.

    @Joseph Get a job in media! Cargo shorts all the way, my friend.

  9. Joseph says:

    Haha, very good point, Carolyn. I actually want to work in media anyway. :)

  10. erin says:

    I think that it will be interesting to see this case pan out. The work clothes she has been shown in, fit her like they should, they fit her body. It’s her curvy figure that is the “problem”. What is this woman supposed to wear? a tent? so that it won’t make her male co-workers uncomfortable and unable to concentrate? I don’t feel she should have to hide her body to such an extent. yes, wear office appropriate clothes – which she was doing, but one can’t really help it if they were born with a great body. In the several articles i’ve read about this case, it has been said that other females in the office were wearing shorter skirts and lower cut blouses.. but according to the men “since they didn’t have nice figures, it didn’t matter”. It has also been stated that her “poor work performance” was none other that a glass precipice. She was given tasks that she could not complete because of insufficient training – she was set up to fail. All because the men couldn’t handle their libidos when she was around? Like I said it will be very interesting to see how this pans out. Also, there definitely is a ton of beautiful women walking around, there is also a ton of sexual harassment cases which go unreported because often times that can be hard to prove. @samantha – pretty people don’t necessarily have it easy at all, and i think this case is a good example of that.

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  12. Laure68 says:

    One thing I find odd is that she is posing in a very sexy way in these pictures. I would think if you were pursuing a sexual harassment suit that your attorney would advise against this.

    I know sexual harassment exists and I don’t pretend to know what really happened, I just found this kind of strange.

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