(Reuters) - Sixteen women filed a lawsuit against the FBI on Wednesday, claiming sexual discrimination and accusing it of running “a good old boy network” in its training program.
Male instructors exposed the former recruits to a hostile work environment, sexual harassment and inappropriate jokes, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in federal district court in Washington.
Seven of the women still work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and some did not use their full names in the suit, fearing retaliation, according to a court filing.
According to the suit, the bureau’s instructors are mostly men and they penalized and dismissed female trainees at a significantly higher rate than male trainees.
Some of the litigants accused the instructors of making inappropriate jokes and making multiple sexual advances on at least one of the female trainees.
The lawsuit asked that the bureau review its training evaluation process, pay $300,000 to each of the women for emotional stress, and that it hire more female instructors.
“While we are unable to comment on litigation, the FBI is committed to fostering a work environment where all of our employees are valued and respected,” the FBI said in a statement. “Diversity is one of our core values, and to effectively accomplish our mission of protecting the American people we need people of different genders, backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.”
Women are a minority in the FBI, according to statistics provided by the bureau. Women make just 20% of agents, and 32% of people in its basic field training course for agents in 2019.
Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Nick Macfie and Susan Thomas