Does Being Beautiful Really Mean You Can't Be Taken Seriously at Work?

The scandalous case of former Citibank employee Debrahlee Lorenzana is a prime example of female injustice in the workplace.

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Apparently, yes. We tried to ignore what appeared to be gratuitous use of the word "hot" and one clearly overblown media frenzy. The headlines — which appeared on local and regional newspapers and blogs alike — more or less amounted to the same: "Is This Woman Too Hot to Be a Banker?" (In case you've been hanging under rocks or too busy updating your Facebook status or whatever lately, by now you've probably heard that former Citibank employee Debrahlee Lorenzana was fired and is now suing the bank, alleging that her good looks were to blame for her termination.)

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At first glance, her claim sounds somewhat laughable, and that's the tone of plenty of the opinions being hashed and rehashed online. After all, good-looking people reap plenty of benefits the less physically blessed among us do not. In fact, besides the obvious advantages, there is scientific data to back this up — a recent Harvard study claims the beautiful tend to enjoy higher pay and have an edge in the job market overall. Perhaps that's why Lorenzana's case has caused such a stir. That and the fact that she's posed for an inordinate number of "sexy secretary-esque" photoshoots that certainly don't do much to enhance the validity of her claims.

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But after taking a closer look at her story, the fact is that she experienced a shocking level of sexual harassment that most men, and let's face it, less attractive women, would never be subjected to. She was told as much when she complained that her male superiors, who continually cornered her with recommendations about her wardrobe, were singling her out by telling her she could not wear turtlenecks, pencil skirts, or high heels — standard dress in her office. They allegedly replied that due to the nature of her curvy figure, the clothes looked too suggestive on her, whereas on a woman of a less voluptuous figure, the same garments were not. Seriously?

When Lorenzana says, "It's so tiring. My entire life, I've been dealing with this. I couldn't take it anymore!" it's easy to dismiss her claims as whiny. But if you overlook the superficial — that which seemingly got her into all this trouble in the first place — it's one more case of a female being unfairly treated in the workplace, and that's an issue that should be taken seriously, salacious headlines or not.

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