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Citigroup U.S. gender bias lawsuit expands December 1, 2006

Posted by C.A.R.D in Card, Citizens Against Racism and Discrimination, Discriminate, Discrimination, Lawsuit, Sexism.
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NEW YORK, – A sex discrimination lawsuit against Citigroup Inc. has grown to include charges that the bank’s policies were designed to deprive female brokers of opportunities offered to male brokers, court papers show.

An amended complaint filed on Wednesday with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco accuses the bank’s Smith Barney unit of using past performance, which it called “the results of historical discrimination,” as a criterion for awarding business and pay.

Two female brokers joined three others from the original lawsuit, which was filed in March 2005.

The women contend that even small advantages that the bank gave to men accumulated over time. As a result, according to the complaint, Citigroup “keep(s) male brokers at the top of the compensation scale and female brokers at the bottom.

“During discovery, it became apparent that Smith Barney’s policies with respect to account distribution and compensation perpetuated past discrimination,” Beth Alexander, a partner at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP in Nashville, Tennessee, who represents the plaintiffs, said in an interview.

“That cumulative advantage causes men to have greater income than women, not based on their efforts today, but based on what happened at Smith Barney in past years,” she added.

On Monday, in a case involving Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. , the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over whether people can allege civil rights violations because of present-day disparate treatment, based on gender discrimination that occurred long ago. A decision by June is expected.

Katrina Clay, a Smith Barney spokeswoman, said the claims lack merit.

“Significant initiatives in the last several years have helped establish Smith Barney as one of the most progressive employers in the securities industry,” she said. “We are absolutely committed to providing a professional and respectful work environment.”

Citigroup responded similarly to the original complaint.

Alexander said there have been settlement talks, but none are ongoing.

NEW PLAINTIFFS

In the original complaint, the plaintiffs accused Citigroup of preventing female brokers from competing fairly with men for new accounts, promotions and pay, and depriving women of equal training and sales support.

The original plaintiffs included three former brokers in Smith Barney’s Santa Rosa, California office: Renee Fassbender Amochaev, Deborah Orlando and Kathryn Varner. A fourth named plaintiff was later dropped.

New plaintiffs include Ivy So, who left a Smith Barney office in Glendale, California this year, and Lisa Strange Weatherby, who still works at a Jacksonville, Florida office.

The plaintiffs are seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, reinstatement to their “rightful positions,” and an end to discriminatory practices at Smith Barney.

In 1997, Smith Barney settled accusations that men harassed women in what became known as the “Boom-Boom Room.”

Other Wall Street firms have also faced bias lawsuits.

Merrill Lynch & Co.  faces a federal lawsuit in Chicago accusing it of discrimination against African-American brokers and trainees in hiring, promotion and compensation.

Morgan Stanley  in 2004 agreed to pay $54 million to settle bias charges by hundreds of women who said they were denied raises and promotions and subjected to lewd behavior.

C.a.r.d {Citizens Against Racism and Discrimination} Source: Reuters

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