Cover Up! Corporate Taliban is here

Published: 16 November, 2011 14:20 IST | Bobby Anthony |

Indian women honchos cry foul against Citibank employee in Manhattan being sacked for being too attractive

Indian women honchos cry foul against Citibank employee in Manhattan being sacked for being too attractive

What should any senior woman executive do if she is sacked'being too attractive' and 'distracting colleagues at work? Well, go to court, of course. That's exactly what a senior banker Debrahlee Lorenzana (33) did, when she was asked to leave by the Manhattan-based Citibank, after being deliberately given highly unachievable targets and being dubbed a 'non-performer' by boss Craig Fisher.

"If it wasn't my shirt, it was my pants. If it wasn't my pants, it was my shoes. They picked on me every single day," Lorenzana  told the USA-based Village Voice, which has published 26 of her photographs on its website.

Citibank even charged her with being late for work, but oddly enough, the days cited were all bank holidays. 

Commenting on the discrimination women face at work, Usha Amonkar, Vice President (Group Legal) of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd told MiD DAY, "Prima facie, I think it is grossly unfair to the victim. In India, the judgement delivered in the Vishakha case has defined gender discrimination as well as sexual harassment. Unless the woman grossly violates the corporate dress code, no such action is permissible. Otherwise it is gender discrimination".

A former KPMG employee, who is currently pursuing a sexual harassment case against Vikram Uttam Singh, head of financial advisory services and senior partner of KPMG India, says she understands Lorenzana's predicament. "My modesty was outraged. It was bad to see people trying to destroy my career.

Calls were made to my housing society and all sorts of things were told. Women who fight back will have to do it all alone. The worst part is that no woman stood by me, though some male colleagues were helpful,"  she said.
Citibank seems to have sacked Lorenzana for trivial and unfair reasons, she believes. "It was the same thing with me. Even though they wanted to make me a partner in the firm, they alleged that I had low values, after I took them to court. Debrahlee spoke out, women in India don't."
"It's absolutely ridiculous, crazy and outrageous if this happens in a country like the USA. If there is any truth in it, it must be condemned. I am interested in seeing how the case develops. But perhaps there is something more to it than meets the eye," said Neeta Phatarphekar, Associate Director, Financial Advisory Services, Pricewaterhouse Coopers Pvt Ltd.

Can a woman at work distract you, we asked Mumbai professionals

Hansel D'souza, Manager at Tata Commun ications Banking InfraSolutions Ltd.
Gorgeous co-workers can be distracting, especially if they are provocatively dressed. But that doesn't affect my work because the office is a professional environment. Lorenzana is perfectly right in suing the organisation. She was fired unreasonably.

Niren Bhatt, Consultant at Ibexi
My profession doesn't involve non-formal conversations. So, even if a colleague is attractive, there isn't much scope for distraction. I don't know what provoked Citibank to fire Debrahlee, but she has done the right thing.

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