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.
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:
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: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.
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.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.
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:
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.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.