Financial services conglomerate Citigroup was on Wednesday sued for gender discrimination by six of its current and former female employees who alleged the company paid women less than their male counterparts.
According to the lawsuit filed in US District Court in Manhattan, Citigroup is more likely to lay off well-qualified women and retain less qualified men.
"The outdated 'boys club' is alive and well at Citigroup where women are denied equal terms and conditions of employment that are provided to similarly-situated male employees," the complainants said in the lawsuit.
Five of the six women who moved the court against the 'discrimination' by the bank on Wednesday had worked in its public finance department and were among those laid off in November 2008.
The women alleged that Citigroup did not compensate female employees the way it did the male counterparts and overlooked them for promotions.
"As a result of this 'boys club,' men dominate the senior ranks of Citigroup's management and executive positions", they said in the lawsuit.
The sixth woman, who currently works in the asset finance group of the banking behemoth, alleged that she was demoted after returning from the maternity leave and has faced offensive comments at workplace.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, class-action status and a court order to end discrimination.
The complainants assert that Citigroup's 44-member senior leadership committee includes only five women, and that its 19-member executive committee comprises entirely of men.
It further said there was significant disparity in the number of women and men laid off in the November 2008 cuts "that was unlikely to have occurred by chance and instead was the result of intentional gender discrimination."
"While Citigroup has worked so hard to right the ship and repay (Troubled Asset Relief Programme) funds borrowed from the federal government, it has failed to address the pervasive discrimination and retaliation that its female employees have been subjected to throughout the course of their employment," the lawsuit said.
"As a result of this company wide discrimination, there is a glass ceiling adversely affecting female employees, especially those female employees who become pregnant, take a maternity leave, or have childcare obligations at Citigroup in all facets of their employment," it added.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal quoted a Citigroup spokeswoman as saying that the women who lost their jobs were selected based on legitimate business reasons and not on their gender.
The company's Public Finance department was forced to reduce its work force "due to the severe and sustained downturn in the financial markets" she said.
"Many of their allegations are either totally inaccurate or selectively incomplete," the spokeswoman said.
"The facts do not support their claims of gender discrimination.
Last month, three former female employees at Goldman Sachs filed their own bias lawsuit against Goldman, claiming gender discrimination.
In March, three investment advisers who worked at Bank of America Merrill Lynch filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the bank of gender bias.