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Lawsuit: Women FBI agents claim systemic sexual harassment and racial discrimination

Lawsuit: Women FBI agents claim systemic sexual harassment and racial discrimination
[Photo: Flickr user Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)]

There’s no doubt that training to become an FBI agent is hard work, but it may be a lot harder for women.

In addition to learning all the skills necessary to be a tough, clever agent of the federal bureau, women may also have to endure inappropriate jokes and ward off the sexual advances of their colleagues and instructors. Now, 16 female former FBI recruits, including seven current FBI agents, are suing the bureau for allegedly creating a hostile work environment, the New York Times reports. The proposed class-action lawsuit filed Wednesday accuses the bureau of gender discrimination in how it trains and evaluates female candidates at its famed Quantico academy, as well as in some cases also discriminating based on race and disabilities.

The women detail incidents where they were allegedly subjected to overt sexual harassment, say they were punished for behavior their male counterparts got away with, and say they had to live up to a male-biased review process that set them up to fail.

The suit also calls out former FBI director James Comey for allegedly dismissing one woman’s complaints. (Comey declined to comment to the Times.) The women behind the suit want a review of the FBI’s training evaluation process, more female training instructors, $300,000 each for emotional stress, and to “change the culture of the FBI” while they’re at it.

Hopefully, the suit will foster change for the women joining the agency’s ranks. Women made up only one-fifth of the FBI’s agents as of October 2018, and if the allegations in this suit are true, it’s easy to see why. The bureau says more women are applying to be agents—up from 22% in 2017 to 36% this year.

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