By TOM LLAMAS For NBC New York
It’s not a crime to be beautiful or dress well, but if you ask 33-year-old Debrahlee Lorenzana they both can cost you your job.
“They pulled me aside and said I could not wear pencil skirts, turtlenecks, I cannot wear business suits that were fitted. Basically they said it drew too much attention,” says Lorenzana.
The single mom used to work for Citibank as a business banker at their branch inside the Chrysler building. She says her outfits for work were deemed “too distracting” by her male managers. They allegedly pointed to her rear and said her pants were too tight.
“Very uncomfortable,” is how Lorenzana describes those confrontations.
She says when she complained to human resources, her managers retaliated. According to her lawsuit Citibank gave her targets she could not meet because she was not properly trained. Citibank cited her work performance as a reason for termination. Left without a job Lorenzana struggled to pay the bills
“It was very hard,” says Lorenzana who fought back tears when describing a recent Christmas she celebrated with her son with no presents.
Her lawyer Jack Tuckner says at its base this case is about gender discrimination.
“It was about her being too good looking for us to bother to contain ourselves. So that’s shirt’s gotta go,” says Tuckner hypothesizing what Lorenzana’s managers thought about her clothes. “Why should we have to deal with what a babe you are? Fix it.”
In a prepared statement Citibank tells NBCNewYork:
“We believe this lawsuit is without merit and we will defend against it vigorously. We do not condone or tolerate discrimination within our business for any reason.”
Citibank also points out that all workers who face employees are given dress guidelines.
When Lorenzana was hired she signed a contract which prevents her from directly suing Citibank. So an arbitration hearin will be held. It could be months if not years before a decision is made. She is seeking future earnings, back pay, and damages for mental and emotional distress.
Tuckner says if the roles were reversed it would be very difficult to see a man being asked to changed his wardrobe for dressing and looking well in his opinion.
“Maybe they were uncomfortable with her because they didn’t feel like they could not hit on her over long periods of time. So instead they wanted her to wear a tent or a Burka,” says Tuckner.