Citigroup was hit by a gender discrimination lawsuit Wednesday, which charges that the banking giant pays women less, promotes them less and fires them first. Citigroup policy, according to the lawsuit, gives managers unfettered discretion in their management decisions, instead of requiring judgments to be based on performance or other objective criteria.

According to the six women who filed the suit, "It is a well-known mantra at Citigroup that 'if there's a layoff, it's women and children first.'" Five of the women suing were indeed laid off by Citigroup, even though, if the allegations are true, obviously less qualified men in the same groups kept their jobs. In fact, the alleged differences in qualifications and performance between the women laid off and the men retained are so stark, the manager involved, David Brownstein, will have a hard time explaining what, other than gender, drove his decisions.

Consider the case of Amy Bartoletti, a former director of Citigroup. Bartoletti had been with the bank for 16 stellar years when her immediate supervisor was laid off in July 2008. David Brownstein promoted her to fill the spot. She was allegedly the obvious choice for the promotion; the only other person at her level in the department was a man named Michael Koessel, who had worse performance reviews, "360-degree reviews" -- which include peer evaluations, and received lower performance bonuses. In addition, Bartoletti had significantly more management experience than Koessel. Nonetheless, when Koessel went to Brownstein and threatened to quit, Brownstein made him co-chair of the department. And then in November, during the next round of layoffs, Koessel kept his job, but Bartoletti didn't.

Citigroup Calls the Allegations "Inaccurate or Incomplete"

Citigroup has responded by saying that these women aren't telling the whole truth, and in some cases, simply not telling the truth. "Many of their allegations are either totally inaccurate or selectively incomplete. The facts do not support their claims of gender discrimination," a Citigroup spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

Citigroup further notes that:
Throughout 2008, Citi's Public Finance department was forced to reduce its workforce due to the severe and sustained downturn in the financial markets. These plaintiffs were just five of approximately 70 men and women in the public finance department who were part of that reduction, and they were selected based on legitimate business reasons, not based on their gender, and were selected in the very late rounds of the reduction in force, having survived several earlier rounds of reductions throughout 2008.
The sixth plaintiff is still a Citigroup employee, and alleges that throughout her employment she has been subjected to a hostile work environment of sexual innuendo and gender comments, and was demoted after returning from maternity leave because she was a now a mother. Citigroup similarly rejects this plaintiff's allegations, saying:
Many of her allegations are false, unsupported or taken completely out of context. The facts demonstrate that the employment decisions involving her role were based on her performance and not her gender or her pregnancy or the fact that she took family leave.
As is common in gender discrimination suits, much of the focus is on these "he said-she said" claims. But it is the plaintiffs' statistical evidence that will ultimately prove whether Citigroup has committed enough gender discrimination to support a class action. And these women do offer evidence that so few women are in upper management at Citigroup, and so many women were laid off relative to men, that neither fact could result from chance.

Goldman Sachs and AIG Face Similar Claims

Although not relevant at trial, plaintiffs can also point out that Wall Street is infamous for being a "boys club" and many major employers on the Street have been sued for, and/or settled, gender discrimination claims. Currently Goldman Sachs (GS) is also facing a gender discrimination suit, as is American International Group (AIG). Why should Citigroup be so different?

For its part, Citigroup counters that:
Citi has a long-standing commitment to equal employment practices and to provide a professional and respectful workplace free of unlawful discrimination. We are disciplined, focused, consistent and vigilant in regard to our diversity-related efforts. Citi has several diversity initiatives that allow us to enhance innovation, create business opportunities, and relate to our valuable client base. Our diversity work has been recognized by external organizations and publications including Working Mother Magazine, which named Citi as one of the 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers 19 times, and Diversity Inc Magazine, which recognized Citi as one of its Top 25 Noteworthy Companies for Diversity.
Of course, similar words of praise from Working Mother magazine didn't help Novartis (NVS) when it faced -- and lost -- a massive gender discrimination suit earlier this year.

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7 Comments

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Justice

Many of the posts here display exactly the type of hostile work and living environment that women face daily. If the commenters were the defendants in this case (and they may well be), they would clearly lose based upon facts and law. They only provide further evidence of gender- based harassment, mistreatment, and discrimination.

June 13 2014 at 12:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mkw737

Citi has a world-class diversity policy and 2 layers of challenges for any adverse action taken against employees. It will be the plaintiffs with the factual difficulties in this proceding, not the defendant.

October 14 2010 at 5:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David

Women were on CNBC crying that they now must support their spouse males who are laid off. I guess they don't REALLY want equality because when the roles shift, they hate it. If there were real equality, women would not like the way the courts in America finally treat them as men's equals along with heftier penalties and more certain conviction rates.

October 14 2010 at 2:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to David's comment
tsafa

100% correct. Women get favoritism in court all the time and don't complain about that.

October 14 2010 at 3:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tsafa

Simple fact is that Women PMS'ing one week out of every month is a real and serious disruption in the work place. Its just a fact of life... women PMS and BITCH. When they get back to normal, they don't realized what a disruption they have been. The only reason why men put up with women at all is for sex and to have families. Since that is not a factor in the workplace, there is no reason to put up with their PMS bitching.

October 14 2010 at 2:24 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
grapost

Here we go again. If women can't get what the want though FAIR competition, they claim discrimination and sue. It's always the fault of men for their lack of success and accomplishment. It's the 'poor little girls' claiming they're being picked on by the Boys at the playground complaint. This has been the SAME complaint women have been making since the beginning of time. It's always somebody else's fault for their lack of achievement. EVERY MINORITY GROUP in the country blames WHITE MEN or MEN for their problems and lack of achievement. It's about time this LIE was put to rest. And why does the Federal Government classify Women as a MINORITY when they make up 51 percent of the population?

October 14 2010 at 1:22 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to grapost's comment
altruisticomedy

Nothing like the educated opinion of a white man with a solid historic background of gender differences since 'beginning of time'. When I start getting paid $1 for $1 and not 72 cents for $1, then I'll start listening to your enlightened commentary. FYI- status of minority does not indicate the actual number of people. Your quick use of the dictionary is giving me a headache.

October 14 2010 at 2:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply