Everything about Debrahlee Lorenzana is hot. Even her name sizzles. At five-foot-six and 125 pounds, with soft eyes and flawless bronze skin, she is J.Lo curves meets Jessica Simpson rack meets Audrey Hepburn elegance—a head-turning beauty.
In many ways, the story of her life has been about getting attention from men—both the wanted and the unwanted kind. But when she got fired last summer from her job as a banker at a Citibank branch in Midtown—her bosses cited her work performance—she got even hotter. She sued Citigroup, claiming that she was fired solely because her bosses thought she was too hot.
This is the way Debbie Lorenzana tells it: Her bosses told her they couldn’t concentrate on their work because her appearance was too distracting. They ordered her to stop wearing turtlenecks. She was also forbidden to wear pencil skirts, three-inch heels, or fitted business suits. Lorenzana, a 33-year-old single mom, pointed out female colleagues whose clothing was far more revealing than hers: “They said their body shapes were different from mine, and I drew too much attention,” she says.
As Lorenzana’s lawsuit puts it, her bosses told her that “as a result of the shape of her figure, such clothes were purportedly ‘too distracting’ for her male colleagues and supervisors to bear.”
“Men are kind of drawn to her,” says Tanisha Ritter, a friend and former colleague who also works as a banker and praises Lorenzana’s work habits. “I’ve seen men turn into complete idiots around her. But it’s not her fault that they act this way, and it shouldn’t be her problem.”
Because Citibank made Lorenzana sign a mandatory-arbitration clause as a condition of her employment, the case will never end up before a jury or judge. An arbitrator will decide. Citibank officials won’t comment on the suit.
Her attorney, Jack Tuckner, who calls himself a “sex-positive” women’s-rights lawyer, is the first one to say his client is a babe. But so what? For him, it all boils down to self-control. “It’s like saying,” Tuckner argues, “that we can’t think anymore ’cause 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!”
This isn’t your typical sexual-harassment lawsuit, if there is such a thing. For one thing, such suits often claim that women are coerced into looking more sexy or are subjected to being pawed. Lorenzana claims that her bosses basically told her she was just too attractive. And when she raised hell and refused to do anything about it—as if there was anything she really could do about it—she lost her job.