By Nathan Duke
A Little Neck woman filed a suit last week against Citibank that contends she was fired for wearing outfits that “distracted” her male bosses and she now has been warned by her new employer, JP Morgan Chase, not to speak out on the matter, her lawyer said.
Debrahlee Lorenzana, a 33-year-old mother from Little Neck, worked as a business banking officer at Citi’s Chrysler Building branch in Manhattan ï»¿in 2008, but was transferred in July 2009 to a branch near Rockefeller Center.
In her suit, which was filed last week in Manhattan Supreme Court and is currently in arbitration, Lorenzana contends the male bosses at her first branch told her she could not wear turtlenecks, pencil skirts, fitted suits and other outfits that drew attention to her figure.
Her attorney, Jack Tuckner of Tuckner Sipser Weinstock & Sipser, said his client never wore provocative clothing and that she had been a victim of objectification.
“She was well within the dress code,” he said. “They told her the clothing she wore made it hard for them to concentrate on their work. They were harassing her.”
In a statement, the financial institution dismissed Lorenzana’s claims.
“Ms. Lorenzana has chosen to make numerous unfounded accusations and inaccurate statements against Citibank and several of our employees,” the statement read. “We can say that her termination was solely performance-based and not at all related to her appearance or attire.”
Lorenzana complained to the bank’s human resources department and, according to her suit, her bosses retaliated against her by transferring her to another branch and then firing her one month later.
Now, Tuckner contends JP Morgan Chase, where Lorenzana currently works as a personal banker, has told her she could be fired from her new job if she talks to the media about her case. If she is terminated, Tuckner said his firm would file another suit against that financial institution.
“It’s the code of silence,” Tuckner said. “It’s gangster intimidation tactics. They are ‘banksters.’ She’s not going to stop talking. It’s her right to do so. It is illegal to threaten an adverse employment action against anyone who is opposing an unlawful employment action.”
JP Morgan Chase could not be reached for comment.
Tuckner said his firm has received a letter from Citibank that threatened to sue the attorneys for defamation if Lorenzana continues to speak out against the financial giant.
The lawyer contends he also had a conversation with Chase’s general counsel, who allegedly told him Lorenzana was breaching the company’s code of conduct by speaking to the media.
“It is indefensible that an out-of-control industry that is causing the suffering of the world is blaming little Debrahlee Lorenzana for casting an unfavorable light on it,” Tuckner said. “She’s speaking truth to power.”
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.