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This Week in Fashion: When Being Too Attractive and Appealingly Dressed Can Get You Fired

June 3, 2010

Just when you thought being an attractive woman who dressed well in a corporate environment was safe, you discover that it can be “too distracting” for the male species who have to share the same breathing space with you, as Debrahlee Lorenzana, former employee (because she was fired) of Citibank, was told “you are too distracting” and was put in an office out-of-the-way before being fired. 

Citigroup ultimately fired her because of her figure and that her clothing made it too “distracting for her supervisors  and male colleagues to bear.”  Can you imagine ever going to work and being told, “Oh, I’m sorry Ms. Smith, but we have to fire you because you’re too attractive and that your clothes are too tight fighting, and we’re having a hard time keeping our penises in check?”  How would you handle something like that?  How could anybody handle something like that?  Wouldn’t that be a form of sexual harassment coupled with discrimination based on looks and appearances?

What makes it worse, before she was fired she was given a list of clothing she was no longer able to wear to work.  In this list included fitted suits, polo necks, and pencil skirts.   What planet are they on?  And why single her out?   The Puerto Rican native filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Citigroup, but they are saying that her claim has no  merit.  Can they really justify their actions in why they fired her?  That makes me wonder.

Her lawyer, Jack Tuckner, was quoted by Daily Mail saying, “It’s like saying that we can’t think anymore because our penises are standing up – and we cannot think about you except in a sexual manner – and we can’t look at you without wanting to have sexual intercourse with you.  And it’s up to you, gorgeous woman, to lessen your appeal so that we can focus!”  What they have failed to realize is that women have long since stepped away from the old-fashioned look of the business dress attire.  Fitted suits, pencil skirts, low neckline tops, and polo necks have become the norm.  When it becomes a problem for a woman to be appealing indirectly because the male colleagues are keeping their minds in the gutter, it’s not the women who needs to dress down, it’s the men who needs to be reprimanded and put in check, especially if the women are not doing anything to provoke inappropriate thoughts and actions.  There is a difference last I looked.

This is a clear indication of what they go throughout the day thinking with…and it’s certainly not their mind.  I have to side with Lorenzana because it just doesn’t seem right for a financial company as big as Citigroup to attack her in this manner.  I saw her on the news when Fox New interviewed her, and I saw nothing wrong with how she was dressed, in fact, it’s how I dress when I go to work and no one is complaining.  In fact, it’s how some of my co-workers dress and no one complains or gets bent out of shape over.

With that said, her case is very self explanatory and I feel and believe she has a strong case against them for making such an effort to confront her when the time they spent launching this attack against her could have been spent acquiring new clients or tending to other important matters.  Or perhaps seeing a psychiatrist about their obvious problem.  It’s not about how she dresses and her over all appeal.  We need to look at it for what it is.  She’s young, 33, attractive, and is a single mother.  What has not be addressed is if anyone made a pass at her and she shot them down.  No one’s said anything about that.  I think it’s safe to say she’s not concerned with sleeping her way to the top, that doesn’t strike me as being what she’s all about.  she’s obviously good at what she does, otherwise she wouldn’t have gotten that job.  And it’s obvious she knows how to take care of herself.  After all, she did say that where she comes from women dress up just to go to the grocery market.  They embrace their femininity.

Let’s ask this question, too, would this have happened if she were a white woman (no offense ladies, just trying to make a point)?  Probably not.  Most likely it would have been handled differently.  Would this have happened if she were a black woman (again, no offense to my ladies of color, just trying to make a point)?  I say it probably would and has.  I’ve known friends whom it’s happened to.

But let’s think about other women of Citigroup.  How do they feel about her?  Are they intimidated by her looks and how she carries herself?  Do they feel threatened in their position, in their ability to move forward?  Are they worried for whatever reason?  Does Lorenzana give them reasons to worry?  Do they feel they have to look and dress a certain way to work there?  It makes you kind of wonder how these so-called executive freaks think from day-to-day.

She was even confronted in a meeting by managers who told her when she was wearing a fitted suit that her pants were too tight, and yet there are photos of other employees who are dressed very provocatively.  Seriously.  Photos of other employees dressed very provocatively?  Where they confronted in the same manner?  Were they told they had to dress down?

In one of the comments that was posted by someone who obviously doesn’t have a clue, or just wishes he could “get under her skin” stated, “She has already shown her moral standards by having a child without a husband.  It is no surprise, then, that she wears revealing clothing to work.  A workplace is meant to focus on work, not on frivolous attention seeking.  They are well rid of her.”  Really, Anthony!  Are you that one-sided?  Is this about getting attention? 

Read the entire article and comments here:

Sex appeal holds its own suppleness.  And there is such a thing about being appealing with discretion.  In today’s workforce women have stepped away from the nude-colored nylons, round-toe 2-inch pumps,  tops buttoned all the to the neck, high neck lines, and skirts nearly to the ankle, not in a sense to glamorize their way to the top, but to look good in a fashion sense that is kept professional at best.  It’s called being appealing but keeping it tasteful.  It goes too far when our male counterparts spend too much time gawking at what we’re wearing because we dress above the average conservative business woman.  It would be safe to say that in every regard that we are leaving ourselves wide open for some inappropriate remarks, actions, and unfair accusations when go beyond the boundaries of being professionally dressed.

It bothers me when we, as women, who work as hard as we do to collect a paycheck, cannot go to work without some schmuck getting in our face about how we’re dressed.  Or making some crude comment that we’re not supposed to get offended by without hearing, “well, if she wasn’t dressed that way I would have probably never said it.”  The reality is sexual harassment doesn’t care who it affects regardless of how a woman dresses in today’s workforce.  Then again, it would be one thing if we wore skirts so short that showed our butt cracks and tops with neck lines so low you could see the tips of our nipples, and high heels so high that when we walked we were bending over giving you a front-row seat of viewing our puff-n-stuff.  Come on, is this really where working in the corporate environment has gone?

It’s unfair that the case will never go to court, due to a mandatory arbitration clause she signed.  Instead the case will be decided by an arbitrator.  Citigroup plans to defend themselves vigorously in this claim and feels they will be victorious.  In the article they highly dismiss their being discriminatory against their employees, siding that they just do not condone it.  They also claim to respect the working rights of their employees as well, yet will not comment on Lorenzana’s work performance, or why she was terminated, although it’s quite clear why she was fired, she was too attractive and her clothes where too tight.  Yeah, right!  Citigroup just couldn’t handle having an attractive employee who knew how to take care of herself and looked good doing it, and looked good doing the job she was hired to do.

Citigroup just couldn’t handle the appeal of a beautiful woman, that’s what it all boils down to.  I hope she wins.  I see Gloria Allred all over this one.

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