A federal judge Thursday allowed the wife of a covert FBI agent to pursue a sexual harassment lawsuit against the bureau under a pseudonym because her identity could pose a risk to her husband’s safety.
The woman, identified in court documents as T.S., is one of 16 women who sued the FBI last year for what they say is gender discrimination, a hostile work environment and sexual harassment at its training academy in Quantico, Virginia.
T.S., who was discharged from the academy in 2016, is married to an FBI special agent who conducts undercover missions for the bureau, according to court documents.
She said her identity must be concealed because it could lead to the exposure of her husband’s true identity and “would compromise his cover, risking the success of his covert work, and ultimately his safety and that of his family.”
U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson granted the request, saying the plaintiff’s need for privacy outweighs the public’s right to know her identity.
Judge Brown said since T.S.’s real name is already known to the FBI and its lawyers to vet her claims, shielding her identity would not compromise the bureau’s ability to defend itself.
“The substantial interest in maintaining her anonymity overcomes any general presumption in favor of open proceedings,” Judge Brown wrote in the six-page opinion.
Others who joined the class-action lawsuit have gone public with their identities. One woman, Erika Wesley, an analyst in the FBI’s Phoenix office, has alleged in legal filings that she and another woman were the victims of retaliation for joining the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed in May 2019, depicts the FBI training academy as a frat-house environment rampant with sexual harassment.
“The FBI has intentionally allowed the Good Old Boy Network to flourish unrestrained at the FBI Academy,” they wrote in court papers filed in Washington, D.C.
Recruits’ complaints included one saying she was sexually harassed and mocked for her disability, while others claimed they were constantly badgered for sex by the male recruits.
One recruit claims in the lawsuit that 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 that woman his number while another agent texted her 15 times a day until she told him to stop, according to the lawsuit.
The FBI has declined to comment on the lawsuit beyond saying that it is committed to providing a working environment where employees are “valued and respected.”
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