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June 8th, 2010 by Dr. Phil

Too Pretty for the Workplace?

workplaceStudies have shown that pretty people earn five percent more an hour and receive more promotions than their plainer counterparts. Now don’t get mad at me. I didn’t come up with those statistics; I’m just the messenger. But what happens when being beautiful backfires?

Debrahlee Lorenzana, a 33-year-old single mother from New York, recently filed a lawsuit suit against Citigroup, claiming that she was fired for being too good-looking. The banker says her managers gave her a list of clothing that she wasn’t allowed to wear on the job: turtlenecks, pencil skirts, fitted suits and even three-inch heels. “As a result of her tall stature, coupled with her curvaceous figure,” her suit says, Lorenzana was told “she should not wear classic high-heeled business shoes, as this purportedly drew attention to her body in a manner that was upsetting to her easily distracted male managers.”

Although Ms. Lorenzana claims that several of her female coworkers dressed more provocatively than she did, they weren’t reprimanded because, in her words, they were “short, overweight, and they didn’t draw much attention.” Citibank says she was terminated because of poor work performance, but Lorenzana believes the company set unrealistic work goals for her to achieve purely as a way to get rid of her.

I’ve read the comments others have made about the businesswoman, and many seem to think that she didn’t try hard enough to deflect attention from her appearance in the workplace. Is it an attractive woman’s responsibility to tone down her looks on the job and maybe dress more conservatively than she normally would? Should women be penalized, as Ms. Lorenzana maintains she was, because the male employees at the office did double takes whenever she walked by?

I cannot wait to hear what you have to say about this one!

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101 Responses to “Too Pretty for the Workplace?”

  1. C.F. says:

    I have had similar instances throughout my career. However, I never disregarded the dress code. When I started out in the Corporate environment, we were not supposed to show “toe cleavage” in our shoes, nor could we wear open toed shoes. Men could not wear tassels on their shoes. Women were required to wear professional attire; but if it became distracting and the subordinate was approached, then they should have heeded the first warning. I even had a woman manager told me it would look inappropriate for me to have a business luncheon with a man that was a Vice President. When I told him what she said, he said not to worry and we would take a 3 hour lunch to talk – he was my mentor.

    The whole business is outdated to a certain extent. I do believe in a professional office, even so much as dictating organizing the cubicles and offices to the 5 S system. I agree with some of the other replies; I turn my sexual feelings off when I enter the door – however, some men do not. If you feel you are a victim of discrimination start a journal and document from the first statement, however innocent you think it is – be specific with dates, times, situation and personnel involved.

    However, the problem with suing the company is being black listed. Moreover, if they decide to litigate, they have the money to wear you down. When I worked for General Motors, we had frequent visits by our Corporate Legal Department as we wrote reports, which could be leaked to the press – so we had to have a firm understanding of our limitations. General Motors fights all of their lawsuits, however minor. They do not settle out of court. This makes most people find employment elsewhere and not take these chances.

    Additionally, when you say that you are too pretty to work, most stay at home women will think you are vain, and the jealous secretaries will spread rumors if they are on the “frumpy side”, as they form crushes on their managers.

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