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Debrahlee Lorenzana: Too Hot for Citibank?

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By Jason Beahm on June 04, 2010 12:45 PM

In Kurt Vonnegut's short story Harrison Bergeron, he tells a tale of the year 2081, where everybody was finally equal. Not only before God and the law, they were actually equal in every way. Thanks to the United States Handicapper General, anyone with better than average intelligence, talent, strength or beauty was handicapped to bring them back to even. Gifted athletes wore large sacks filled with heavy weights and beautiful women wore hideous masks. 

Somehow that all seems relevant to the case of Debrahlee Lorenzana, who alleges that she was fired from her job as a Citibank banker because she was too beautiful. She claims that her bosses told her they couldn't concentrate on their work because her appearance was distracting. Not because she was wearing revealing, trashy wares. On the contrary, Ms. Lorenzana is quite the fashionista. She dressed for work in sophisticated, high end clothing.

According to Ms. Lorenzana, the problem was not with the clothes, it was with her figure itself. She says she was asked to wear clothing that would downplay her figure, of which the Village Voice said: "At five-foot-six and 125 pounds, with soft eyes and flawless bronze skin, she is J.Lo curves meets Jessica Simpson rack meets Audrey Hepburn elegance--a head-turning beauty." In other words, she is hot. 

Ms. Lorenzana alleges that she was forbidden to wear pencil skirts, three-inch heels or fitted business suits. Meanwhile, other women at the office were allegedly wearing the same styles. "They said their body shapes were different from mine, and I drew too much attention," she says.

According to her lawsuit, Debrahlee Lorenzana was told that "due to shape of her figure, such clothes were purportedly 'too distracting' for her male colleagues and supervisors to bear." (Apparently they never considered asking her to wear a mask or a backpack full of weights to correct the problem.)

In the end, Ms. Lorenzana eventually received a transfer to a lower Citibank banker job at a different branch. Then, her new manager fired her. Lorenzana is suing Citibank, for creating a hostile work environment and retaliation. The case is confined to arbitration because of an agreement she signed as a condition of employment. 

Citibank officials have not commented on the suit, citing pending litigation.

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