Sixteen women filed a class-action lawsuit against FBI in federal district court in Washington Wednesday, claiming hostile work behavior, sexual harassment as well as discrimination based on race and disabilities.
According to the court filings, the majority of the bureau's instructors are men. In litigants' words, they often tended to penalize and dismiss female trainees at a higher rate than their male counterparts.
In addition to that, some of the women also claimed to be a regular subject of inappropriate jokes and sexual harassment. Also, some of the female FBI employees complained of being punished for behavior their male colleague got away with.
Furthermore, they had to go through a male-biased review process that often set them up to fail. The litigants who were part of the Quantico program estimated that 80 percent of their colleagues who were discharged before graduation were female.
A former FBI trainee at the FBI's training academy in Quantico, Virginia, who introduced herself as ''Ava'' said that her male instructors treated her in a way that made her feel ''worthless.'' Another former trainee at Quantico, Lauren Rose, accused the former FBI director James Comey of allegedly dismissing her complains.
Her colleague, Paula Bird, testified that she received demerits for not using a flashlight setting during a deadly force training scenario. A male counterpart made the same mistake during the same day, Bird said, highlighting that the instructor did not penalize him.
Another former new agent trainee revealed sexual harassment from four male trainees. According to the filings, they tried to convince her to have sexual intercourse with them. She claimed that a friend had to accompany her to her room to protect from her classmates that followed her that night.
According to the collective lawsuit, the FBI training academy has intentionally been implementing the ''Good old boy network'' in its programs. The suit also alleged that the training division personnel, along with the field counselors and review members frequently disregarded mistakes made by men as separate, isolated incidents. FBI considered male trainees more reliable, the suit concluded.
Although the FBI estimated that more women are applying to join the bureau, up from 22% in 2017 to 36% this year, women represent only one-fifth of the FBI agents as of October 2018.
The plaintiffs said they hoped the lawsuit would make FBI re-think its policies towards women. As one of the litigants, Danielle Snider said, the gender should not be a defining factor to become a FBI special agent.
The lawsuit asked that the FBI pay each litigant $300,000 for causing emotional stress, to review its training evaluation practices and to hire more female staff.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the plaintiffs' statement that FBI should reconsider its policies towards female trainees?