Lawsuit: Citigroup Used Recession To Fire Female Employees

If the plaintiffs in a new discrimination lawsuit against Citigroup are to be believed, the headline-making “Sexy Banker” wasn’t the only one who may have been improperly shown the door by the bank for lacking a Y chromosome.

The plaintiff allege that an inordinate amount of women were let go during Citigroup’s layoffs during the early days of the recession, and that they were laid off in favor of less-qualified male co-workers.

From NPR.com:

The discrimination lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan. The lawsuit said a statistically significant percentage of women were terminated during the November 2008 layoffs, making it unlikely it happened by chance.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs are seeking class action status for the suit.

NY Lawsuit: Citigroup Used Recession To Fire Women [NPR]

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  1. Tim says:

    Hmm … I’m trying to guess how commenters will defend Citi. “Business practices”? “Employees can be fired for any reason or no reason at all”?

    • frank64 says:

      Trying to nip any viewpoint that disagrees with your jump to conclusion in the bud?

      • AstroPig7 says:

        Assuming that the information presented in the suit is correct, how is TCama’s position a hastily formed conclusion? Unfortunately, this is the position that we frequently find ourselves in when discussing news articles, but if the information is true, then how can you possibly defend it?

        • frank64 says:

          It is not really an article, it is really just a press release explaining one side with no detail. Assuming everything is true would be REAL naive. You would really need to be predisposed to that issue to believe it with such little information. I don’t think I would want you on a jury! (:

          • AstroPig7 says:

            I hope you meant a generic you, because I didn’t state my position. Now who’s jumping to conclusions? :P

            • frank64 says:

              Well, you stated how could I disagree. Even that you qualified it by saying “assuming” you seemed to be taking me to task for having an open mind that there COULD be another side other than that of the plaintiffs. Your assumption to me seemed like you were jumping to this conclusion.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      Citi’s Logic:

      money = root of all evil

      women = time x money

      time = money so

      women = money squared

      women = root of all evil squared

      women = evil

      • c!tizen says:

        I have the same thing written in my wallet where my money use to be.

      • Kaonashi says:

        I think you screwed up that last step

        If women = root of all evil squared then it would be

        women / evil = evil

        • Firethorn says:

          He actually screwed up earlier.

          Money = root of all evil = evil^(1/2) (square root of evil).
          Women = time X money
          Women = money^2
          Women = (evil^(1/2))^2
          Women = evil

      • dorianh49 says:

        The logic would be flawed with ‘money = root of evil’, anyway. Not sure who came up with that.

      • Peacock (Now In Extra Crispy) says:

        Actually, it’s the love of money that’s the root of all evil, not money itself.

    • Costner says:

      How about the fact that in a lot of banking / financial institutions, women outnumber men by a substantial number. Case in point, at Wells Fargo 60% of their employees are women. Thus, if layoffs occurred and 60% (or plus or minus 10% of that figure) of the layoffs were women, I don’t really think it would be surprising or biased… it is merely the law of averages.

      https://www.wellsfargo.com/about/diversity/past_present_future/diversepresent

      • Tim says:

        The lawsuit said a statistically significant percentage of women were terminated …

        That would definitely account for at least the 60%.

      • GameHen says:

        In HR/EEO-speak “statistically significant” and “adverse impact” means that they were layed off in numbers greater than their representation in the impacted population. So (roughly) in a workforce of 60% women, if they found that 70% of the laid off individuals were women, then it represents “adverse impact” which is legally actionable. It a bit more finely tuned than that, but it’s a general explanation.

        The “statistically significant” means that it’s not a population of 10 with 7 of them women…it has to be higher numbers that can show significant information and standard deviation doesn’t create “benefit of the doubt”.

      • thisistobehelpful says:

        If you are fired and your less competent male coworker (and likely better paid just due to gender pay differences is not), that’s probably discrimination.

        • SabreDC says:

          Who is making the claim that they are less competent/qualified? The fired women and their lawyers? There is nothing in that article that backs up that claim. Do these women have access to the mens’ work history?

    • runswithscissors says:

      After reading the comments below, it looks like the preferred answer from the usual all-white-male OP blaming crew here is “Dem womens musta had it coming and deserved what dey got!”

      • Sneeje says:

        Wow, the hypocrisy in your post is staggering. Hey, I’m going to dismiss all those posters by lumping them into a negative stereotype! Oh wait…

        • runswithscissors says:

          I wasn’t saying every comment on here was claiming the women deserved it, but read down and some sure are. I was commenting on those people, not on everyone. I coulda/shoulda made that more clear, but I don’t think it was the most reasonable conclusion to reach that I must have been complaining about *every* comment on this story…

          • Kryndar says:

            Uh… I could be wrong but I think Sneeje’s issue was the reference to the “all-white-male OP blaming crew”. That is claiming that the people who make asinine comments blaming the OP must be white males.

            • Kryndar says:

              My kingdom for an edit button! Ya, no, re-reading I think Sneeje’s issue is the dismissing of people by lumping them into the blame the OP crowd. My last post was the issue I took with your comment.

          • MauriceCallidice says:

            I’m not saying every women fired from Citi deserved it, but I’m sure some did. I’m commenting on those women, not on everyone.

  2. Zowzers says:

    such a lawsuit is going to be hard to prove as most of the evidence is going to be speculation & unquantifiable.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      How so? Citi employs X males and Y females. the number of females fired compared to the number of females in the company or the number of males fired is statistically significant, then discrimination occured.

      They do not have to prove intent in this case – they only have to prove that it was disparative to women. Intent, however, would add additional penalties.

      • Zowzers says:

        Discrimination is entirely about intent. And statistics can not prove intent. Statistics can’t prove anything really; even though they are applied by some against the ignorant to “prove” just about anything.

        Now if they can dig up emails or memos showing or implying people were fired or retained due to sex well then Citi deserves to get screwed. Otherwise the lawsuit is banking on Jury sympathy to win.

        • Thyme for an edit button says:

          Intent is not required for a discrimination claim based on disparate impact. And you would use statistics to help show it. A neutral policy that disproportionately impacts a protected class can give rise to a claim for discrimination.

          • Zowzers says:

            your right, a statistical anomaly showing a greater impact of a protected class would be a red flag warranting investigation. But the statistic does not prove that discrimination actually occurred.

            • mac-phisto says:

              it doesn’t matter. plaintiffs can make their case based on “disparate impact” & prevail even if the defendant has justification for their decision. if the plaintiff can prove that an alternative action by the defendant would have resulted in a lesser impact on the protected class, in the eyes of the court, the plaintiff has satisfied the burden of proof of discrimination based on impact.

              • Zowzers says:

                and I find it very sad that such a lawsuit could prevail with out the backing of proof.

                on a side note, Protected classes are kind of ironic. Using discrimination to fight discrimination.

                • Thyme for an edit button says:

                  What do you mean “using discrimination to fight discrimination”?

                  • Coelacanth says:

                    Giving special “rights” to a group of people (i.e. “protected class”) is discrimination. Might it be morally permissable? That’s another story, but discrimination doesn’t discriminate.

                    • Thyme for an edit button says:

                      I am not sure I understand what you mean. Can you explain a different way?

                    • Greely says:

                      Are you being intentionally thick?

                      Bert and Ernie apply for a job. Bert and Ernie are two different races and each have approximately equal qualifications for the job. Bert gets the job because he was the “right” race.

                      Now, if Bert is of the majority, Ernie is being discriminated against. If Bert is in the minority race, Ernie is SOL.

                    • Thyme for an edit button says:

                      There’s no cause to be rude and call me names. I am not sure what people is meant because the commenter spoke in abstractions.

                      Meanwhile, your example does not make sense as race is a protected class. I thought maybe people think this only protects minority races. That is what it seems you think. You can’t legally hire or refuse to hire either one because of race. You can’t fire someone because they are black or because they are white. There is no “right” race because that cannot legally be a consideration.

                      There are all kind of legal reasons one can discriminate, but race is not one of them.

                      I am also not sure if people are trying to make some point about legal discrimination and that people not everyone has protection, which is true. I can hire Burt because he wore a wore a blue shirt to the interview and Ernie didn’t because I only hire people who wear blue shirts to interviews. I do this even if Ernie is more qualified. It is arbitrary, biased, and maybe even unfair, but it is not illegal because “color of shirt” is not a protected class.

                    • Zowzers says:

                      Its very simple. The moment you create a group that has special rights or protections above and beyond others you will have discriminated against all those that are not in that group.

                      That is the very basis of Discrimination; “Discrimination is a sociological term referring to the treatment taken toward or against an individual of a certain group in consideration based solely on class or category.”

                    • Thyme for an edit button says:

                      That’s true, but I am not sure of the point. People not in a legally protected class do not have special rights e.g. there is no protection for people wearing blue shirts who are fired for that reason.

                      As to the protected classes, everyone falls into them and can’t be legally fired because of being in one of them.

                    • Zowzers says:

                      sorry, getting really tough to read now.

                      In theory everyone falls under protected classes, in practice however some groups within those protected class are more protected then others.

                      For example had the statistics shown a higher proportion of men having been fired no one would have batted an eye.

                    • Thyme for an edit button says:

                      I totally agree with you on what the law says and what actually happens in the world.

                    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

                      If both are equal in every way except race, why did they choose Bert? And if they come across the same situation 100 times, are they choosing Bert every time?

                      A single incident does not make it discrimination. It’s the trend, pattern, and average that matter. That’s how “disparate impact” is determined. When all other factor are equal or near rqual, why is the same gender being fired? Why wouldn’t it be a mix, since everything else is equal?

                      That’s disparate impact. I’m sorry you don’t understand. If everything were equal, patterns wouldn’t emerge that show race or gender being disparately impacted.

                • mac-phisto says:

                  yes, well it can certainly be perceived as such. but then, if companies (or people) didn’t discriminate against people based on their gender, religion, the color of their skin, their nation of origin, or their age, then we wouldn’t even be having this discussion, would we?

                  it’s an imperfect world we live in. sucks to figure that out, huh?

                  • Zowzers says:

                    Actually I’m more sad that there are people in this country that seem perfectly happy with guilty by default due to class protections rather then innocent until proven guilty.

                    • mac-phisto says:

                      this is a civil action. there’s no such thing as “guilty” or “innocent”. just who has to write the check & who gets to cash it.

            • Thyme for an edit button says:

              It is not a “red flag warning.” It is enough to make out a prima facie case of discrimination to file in court. Statistics can be enough to prove discrimination. The jury has to decide what they believe. Maybe they won’t think statistics are enough, but maybe they will.

            • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

              How else do you show a disparate impact with statistics? Duh.

              “A vast majority of women were fired compared to men.”

              “Prove it…..without using math.”

              “Well, uh…g…jb…fuck.”

        • frank64 says:

          I would hope your are right, but I fear you may not be. Like when they SAY there are no minority hiring quotas, but then they have used statistics to show that you must be discriminating.

      • NewGrace says:

        Except the fact that more woman were fired is not illegal nor discrimination as long as Citi can explain each individual firing. If they let go 2 marketing teams, which were made up of almost all females, that could be a smart decision to remove an unprofitable section of the company and not have anything to do with the sex of the employees.

        If everyone they let go was over the age of 30, it doesnt mean it has anything to do with their age, it could of focused on wage earned, the closing of a bldg in a city with a low amount of young blood, or any number of other things.

        As they always say, correlation does not equal causation. The ladies in the case will need to prove they were fired due to their sex, and not for other reasons. And even how the case is stated shows men were fired as well.

        AND, I doubt any other company fired an equal number of male and female employees. As the fired employees, they need to prove intent. As long as the bank has an audit trail showing why the employee was valued less than another employee at the same lvl, bank is in the clear.

        Until someone shows up with the christmas party picks…those always get somebody fired.

        • psm321 says:

          Not true in my understanding. As Thyme said below, a neutral policy that disproportionately impacts a protected class can give rise to a claim for discrimination.

  3. TuxthePenguin says:

    Not that the article said anything more than really what was posted here… but wouldn’t “less-qualified male co-workers” earn less money than the women who were let go? Could maybe that be a reason…

    Or, looking at who works for me, I have more women here than men. If I let 50% of my staff go in ratio to total people working here, that would be 4 women and 2 men. Does that mean I was sexist in firing?

    More information please…

    • frank64 says:

      I think it could be used against you. You know a lawyer could make a case.

      I am a male in my late 40′s. When I was part of a mass layoff, because of my age they gave me a required statement listing how many they let go in each age group. I am sure HR is very careful. They also gave me a severance, but contingent on me singing a statement I would not sue them. In this I gave up a right for a payment, and unemployment did not count it towards earning, meaning I could collect as if I didn’t receive it. A good deal for me. I would think Citi offered a similar package.

      • nosense22 says:

        Yeah. I would be surprised if they didn’t hire a firm to help with the layoffs to avoid any legal problems down the road.

        Also, couldn’t this have been a level or layer issue? In my company, >60% of the admin staff is comprised of females, but ~40% of the client serving staff is female. Of that, the senior staff is comprised of >80% men, and the lower levels are 50% men.

        It really depends on the definition of the employee group to determine if there is a statistical bias going on here.

      • zxo says:

        They made you sing the statement? Isn’t that discrimination against the tone-deaf?

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      Well, they could but if Citigroup also kept men who were as equally qualified as the women then it would put a hole in that theory.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      No, because your firings would be in proportion to the employees you have. When firings or promotions of, say, men, are disproportionate to the number of men working in a place (e.g. a higher percentage of men are promoted to management than women) then it looks bad and people start to question the reasons.

      • TuxthePenguin says:

        But lets change this… I’m a CPA and business drops through the floor because the US government radically redesigns the tax code and it becomes easy enough for everyone to do on its own (yeah, we’re in dream land), but I can still make a living doing the financial planning/audits. I would have to let go my entire tax practice… which just so happens to be entirely women. Is that suddenly sexist because I didn’t let any men go?

        How I ended up with two women doing most of the tax work I don’t know.. just kind of happened.

  4. AstroPig7 says:

    I’ve never understood the concept of picking someone less qualified because you prefer their sex. You’re only harming your business by employing low-quality workers. If it’s a matter of being blinded by sexism and assuming that women cannot do a proper job, then I can make some sense of it (however much I detest it), but otherwise it’s inane.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Sexist don’t see this logic. That’s why you don’t understand, because it’s irrational behavior.

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      Well sure, but if you’re a bank and you’re big enough, you’ll just get bailed out if your business suffers too much.

    • FangDoc says:

      It’s hard to believe, but there are still people out there who genuinely think men “deserve” jobs more than women because “they have families to support.”

      ‘Cause, y’know, I just spend my girlie-paycheck on Manolo Blahniks, pedicures, and Virginia Slims.

      • Firethorn says:

        There are also people out there that believe that ‘women’ cost more than men.

        They believe that women are out sick more, are more likely to sue, take more time off for kids, work fewer hours, demand more stable ‘daytime’ hours, work part time and not overtime, etc…

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        One of my first lessons in a single parent household was “you can’t always depend on other people.” Anyone who thinks women shouldn’t have jobs (or the same amount) because men “support the family” really needs to snap into reality.

    • Mom says:

      Rightly or wrongly, it’s typical human nature for people to think that the other people who are just like them are better qualified than the people who are different, whether it’s gender, race, whatever. If, like most big companies, the top of the corporation is a bunch of white guys, then of course, the white guys are going to think the other white guys are more qualified.

    • evnmorlo says:

      If women are a minority, reducing them might improve group performance. Girls’ schools proudly proclaim how keeping boys out helps girls learn.

      Also these “more-qualified” women were probably only so on paper and not when it came to performance. Impossible to tell, because once lawyers get involved the truth is irrevocably erased.

      • Pax says:

        Also these “more-qualified” women were probably only so on paper and not when it came to performance.” (Emphasis mine)

        What makes it probable …? The fact that they are women?

        Attitudes like yours, are why these women believe they were discriminated against.

        • evnmorlo says:

          Isn’t that what “qualified” refers to? A list of qualifications that has only a slight relation to job performance, but comes in handy as “proof” of discrimination? I only said “probable” because it’s possible (but unlikely because I doubt Citigroup wouldn’t be that blatantly sexist or even attempt to contest the lawsuit) that performance evaluations, sales numbers, etc. are being used as evidence.

      • AstroPig7 says:

        Women in the workforce and women in school are totally different groups, particularly when considering maturity and how easily distracted they are by males. Comparing the two groups is like apples and oranges. As for the probability of how good these women looked, I have to call B.S. on your stance. Possible? Yes. Probable? Not without further evidence.

  5. Rocket80 says:

    I’m fairly certain Citigroup values profit over a discriminatory agenda. I trust that they will hire and fire employees based on the profit criteria over the Y-chromosome criteria. Maybe I’m naive.

    • Gulliver says:

      Yes you are.

    • Larkspur says:

      The trouble with this kind of discrimination is that you can’t assume that people are perfectly rational. Internal bias is a funny thing. Generally, employee performance isn’t measured by a lot of perfectly quantifiable metrics. So you can very, very easily have an office in which a less competent person is seen as more able for any number of reasons. Maybe the internal bias is that a serious professional should have more of a man’s vocal tone and build–your petite soprano associate just doesn’t seem “as professional”. Maybe it’s that an older person seems slower to get things done while the younger one is always asking for more work. Maybe an employee from a Spanish-speaking home has an accent that the boss associates with “less intelligent” than a coworker without. The woman may produce better work, the older person might produce far better results, the one with the accent may be perfectly articulate.

      But the boss, there, lays off the employee that he (or she, even with the gender cases) thinks of as having a less professional demeanor, less productivity, less intelligence. They perceive less capability than is really there. They think they’re just making the best business decision, even though they aren’t. They don’t see objective capability; they make their decisions based on subjective criteria that are very vulnerable to bias. Nobody thinks, “Ha, women belong at home barefoot and pregnant, I’d better fire her,” it’s way more insidious than that.

      • runswithscissors says:

        I wish I could up-vote your comment. Very well written.

      • GameHen says:

        This is a great explanation! I would also add that in layoffs, it’s generally not the board of directors and C suite execs selecting those that get cut. They give the order and it’s the line managers who choose among their direct reports who to let go.

        Supposedly, in a big corporation, HR and Legal is supposed to go over the list with a fine-toothed comb to ensure that the aggregate results don’t roll up into an adverse impact situation, but I would imagine that if they were in hurry, or had someone incompetent, or they laid off the HR person who could have done the due diligence to protect them, it’s possible that the impact was overlooked.

        Just because a lot of individuals made little choices that impacted the greater population as a whole doesn’t mean that the corporate entity isn’t responsible for the result.

  6. dragonfire81 says:

    What’s funny to me about this is I have, on the whole, found female coworkers to generally act more professionally than males. But that’s just my personal experience speaking.

    • evnmorlo says:

      Yes, girls are polite. Not that important at Citibank.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Well, there’s professional and then there’s fitting in with people. I’m always professional, but not always the exactly perfect fit because I don’t have kids or i don’t drink or I’m the youngest one or what have you. Sometimes the office culture can get cliquish and you find yourself just not fitting in even though you’re the most professional one in the room.

    • webweazel says:

      I once worked at a place where the boss normally worked with almost all men in the field it was. He started hiring a few women, and as the men moved on, replaced them with women. He would actually seek them out. He said they had more organizational skills, always eager to learn something new, better multi-tasking, and were more detail-oriented.

  7. c!tizen says:

    “they were laid off in favor of less-qualified male co-workers.”

    I’ve gotta ask here, who deemed them to be less qualified?

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      The men can’t bleed for 5 days and continue to live, so therefore they are inferior. :P

    • Mom says:

      Not hard to prove “less qualified” when you start looking at employment records, resumes, etc. I doubt the lawyers used that word lightly.

    • pot_roast says:

      The women that were fired, obviously. Ah, gotta love discrimination suits that seem to revolve around quotas and dubious arguments over who’s “less-qualified.” I wonder if we’ll see a follow up. It would be interesting to see how many of these people were fired simply because they were just crappy employees. But pulling the gender card is more profitable in an out of court settlement.

  8. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I’ll reserve judgment until the lawsuit is concluded.

    But if Citi didn’t vet their termination decision well enough or at all, this could really bite them.

    (For those not savvy, most large businesses vet their mass firings against protected classes [age, gender, handicap, etc.] to ensure unintended discrimination is occurring as part of the terminations. The HR department is responsible for this. Discrimination lawsuits with any evidence against the company rarely go well for them.)

    • Mom says:

      Yeah, I was thinking this myself. If the HR people were competent, this should never happen. But I have seen otherwise competent companies where things got totally out of control from an HR perspective when layoffs came. This happened when a large percentage of the HR dept was getting laid off, and the corporate masters were trying to keep things quiet until the last second. So HR wasn’t properly involved in the process, and a mess ensued.

  9. smo0 says:

    I can say for sure that this happened. I got laid off from Citi back in 2007 – at that time they were picking on minorites (non white males) who have had a leave of absence that year. I was in an accident.. I was one of those axed from the roster.

  10. framitz says:

    “Lawyers for the defendants are seeking class action status for the suit.”

    Just doesn’t sound right. . .Defendants?

  11. nocturnaljames says:

    Females in the banking industry were the cause of the recession, of course they’re firing them!

  12. mikeP says:

    Doesn’t this happen all the time for white males? When they get let go en-masse, does everyone automatically assume racism and sexism? No.

  13. buddyedgewood says:

    And everyone expect different from a company who’s majority stakeholder is a Saudi national?

  14. buddyedgewood says:

    And everyone expect different from a company with a majority stakeholder who is a Saudi national?

  15. Skwidspawn says:

    I doubt that this was by design, after all, they’re just names on paper when they get cut. The problem here is that there are a statistically significant number of women in “disposable” positions.

  16. Punchy says:

    Citigroup laid off 50,000 employees in November & December of 2008. I happend to be one of the female employees laid off during that time & it was a bloodbath; in certain cases entire departments were laid off, including the manager firing the employees. I can’t believe they took the time to pick out more females vs males to let go.

    That being said, Citigroup has absolutely no respect for their employees, male or female. My manager had been accused of sexual harrassment by 3 seperate female employees with many more backing up the accusations and didn’t even get a slap on the wrist. I’m disappointed no one decided to pursue legal action against Citigroup then. The working enviroment at the company was one of the worst I’ve ever seen; 60 hr work weeks are the norm, managers scream and yell at their employees everyday, and they advertise their work life balance, but it didn’t exsist at my location.

  17. peebozi says:

    It’s obvious these so-called “women” weren’t putting out for the nerds in management.

  18. oldwiz65 says:

    No surprise. They also lay off the older more skilled workers cause they earn more money. The days are long long past when corporations gave a rats tushie about employees or employment laws.