A group of former and current female FBI recruits on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the bureau alleging gender discrimination in how it trains and evaluates women candidates.
The 16 women, including seven who still work at the FBI, say while training at the bureau’s academy in Quantico, Virginia, they were subjected to a hostile work environment, overt sexual harassment and unfairly punished for behavior that was excused for their male counterparts. They also alleged the candidate review process is biased towards male recruits.
‘The FBI has intentionally allowed the Good Old Boy Network to flourish unrestrained at the FBI Academy,” they wrote in the lawsuit, filed in Washington, D.C.
Recruits’ complaints ranged from one saying she was sexually harassed and mocked for her disability while others alleged they were constantly badgered for sex by the male recruits.
One recruit alleged in the lawsuit two men pressured her for sex in the back of a car, while others encouraged her to sneak off into an empty room for sex. A 55-year-old agent slipped her his number while another agent texted her 15 times a day until she told him to stop, according to the lawsuit.
An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said the bureau is committed to “fostering a work environment where all of our employees are valued and respected.”
“Diversity is one of our core value and to effectively accomplish our mission of protecting the American people we need people different genders,” she said.
The plaintiffs who trained at Quantico between 2015 and 2018 said in their lawsuit 80 percent of the recruits dismissed from their classes prior to graduation were female.
According to data provided by the FBI, the average graduating class is about 20 percent female. In fiscal year 2019 to date, females accounted for 36 percent of all special agent applications topping their target goal of 33 percent.
The complaint also names former FBI Director James Comey and Mark Morgan, who is currently the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
One woman, Lauren Rose, said she kicked up her compliant to then Mr. Comey after she discharged from the academy in 2015 a week before she was to graduate.
Despite having worked with the bureau since 2009, Ms. Rose insists she was given no reason for the dismissal. She said Mr. Comey denied the discrimination and sent her a letter encouraging her to the pain “to reflect on her strengths and weaknesses.”
Ms. Rose currently works at the FBI’s Miami field office.
Another woman who still works at the bureau, Paula Bird, claimed she was penalized for not using a flashlight in a dark setting during one training trial. She says a male colleague who made the same mistake was not disciplined.
Ms. Bird and 9 other women spoke with NBC News about the lawsuit.
“It became very clear that there were people that they considered that needed to be watched, and that group would have majority females,” she told that network. “You’re in the group that, ‘You don’t know what you’re doing, you’re not very good, and we’re going to watch every move you make because we’re expecting you to fail.”
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