A former employee of Citigroup is accusing the bank of being a “boys’ club” that paid women like her less, denied her equal opportunities for promotion, and then penalized her for speaking up about potential gender discrimination.
In a lawsuit filed Monday, Erin Daly alleges she experienced “continuous and hostile conduct” from her coworkers because of her gender, was denied a key business function that would have allowed her to advance her career, and was unlawfully retaliated against and eventually fired.
“We believe the claims alleged are without merit and intend to vigorously defend against them,” Citigroup said in an emailed comment about the lawsuit. Daly and her lawyer could not be reached for further comment.
In her complaint, Daly says she was recruited to Citibank in 2007 and worked there until 2014. During that time, she claims that she oversaw a 50 percent increase in assets under management and a 55 percent increase in revenue in her portfolio, while being “pivotal” in increasing revenue to $26.4 million in 2014. She also claims that she was recognized as a top employee in 2008, promoted in 2010, and given the CEO Award for Excellence in 2012.
She also argues that she “constantly and continually” put in more than 12 hours a day, more hours than anyone else on her team.
But things changed in 2012 when a key technical functionality was “deliberately” taken from her and no one else on her all-male team, she alleges, that excluded her from getting more business opportunities. “Erin’s exclusion from this privilege kept her from establishing and building any real relationships because she was prevented from giving any value to clients,” the complaint states. She says she repeatedly asked her manager and other higher ups to return her authority but it was never restored.
So on January 18, 2013, she sent an email to four managers asking that it be restored given that she was, she says, the only one on her team without it. “Is this because I am female? I hope not,” she included in the email. In response, she alleges that the human resources department told her “you can’t say things like that because we take those things very seriously” and forced her to apologize for the implication that she was experiencing gender discrimination. “Erin was made to understand if she did not apologize for requesting equal treatment, it would cost [her] her job,” the complaint says.
Without the key functionality, she claims that she was turned into “just a glorified secretary” and that her male colleagues became more comfortable treating her as such. At the same time, she says she started being excluded from meetings with Citi executives.
“Citi’s ‘boys’ club’ policies and practices…underlie a culture of gender discrimination.”
“This exclusion from her business functionality resulted in loss of opportunity and is a result of Citi’s ‘boys’ club’ policies and practices which underlie a culture of gender discrimination,” the complaint states. As evidence, she points to the exclusion of women from allocating stock to clients or even viewing the “book” that contains details on deals. “This systematic exclusion of females from any real functionality resulted and continues to result in diminished client contact, opportunity for advancement, and pigeonholing into service, administrative, and secretarial roles for females,” the complaint says. She also alleges that the bank pays male and female employees unequally.
She claims that her firing came after she tried to blow the whistle on a colleague who was violating insider trading laws and harassing her to give him non-public information so he could give it to his clients. Five days after she brought up his behavior, she alleges, she was called into human resources and told to gather her belongings and not return. About a week later, she was told she was terminated.
She also alleges that her colleagues went further than just firing her by filing a form with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which can be viewed by anyone in the industry, that contained “false, misleading, malicious and defamatory statements” about her performance at Citibank “to ensure that she would never work in finance again.”
Daly’s is not the first lawsuit to accuse Wall Street firms of discriminating against women.
Two female former employees of Goldman Sachs have sued the bank for creating a “boys’ club” atmosphere where female employees were “sexualized or ignored,” company outings were frequently to strip clubs, and the bank ignored sexual assault suffered by a female employee from a coworker. They also claimed women were paid less and promoted less frequently than men.
A lawsuit against HSBC in 2014 alleged that an executive pressured female employees to sleep with executives and sexually harassed her both physically and verbally. A separate complaint from the same time alleged that the bank fired an employee for complaining about unwanted sexual advances from a coworker.
And in 2013, Bank of America settled a lawsuit with 4,800 women that alleged it gave male employees the most lucrative clients, thereby giving women fewer professional opportunities and lower pay.
Women in finance generally face an environment where they are still underrepresented — they make up about a third of all employees in investment banking and securities and less than 30 percent of executives in finance. They are also often paid less: of the ten occupations that have the biggest gender wage gaps, five are in finance.