Sixteen women who trained to become FBI agents and analysts have filed a lawsuit accusing the bureau of gender discrimination in its training and evaluation of female candidates, saying their treatment at the academy in Quantico, Virginia, made them feel worthless.
Seven of the women still work at the FBI, according to NBC News.
“The FBI has intentionally allowed the good old boy network to flourish unrestrained at the FBI Academy,” the suit alleges.
For instance, the suit says, female trainees were punished for mistakes that male trainees were not. “Training division staff, including instructors, supervisors, field counselors, managers, and review board members, frequently dismiss mistakes made by male trainees as isolated incidents, determine male trainees to be retrainable, and retain them at the academy at a disproportionately higher rate than their female trainee counterparts,” according to the suit.
A plaintiff who asked to be identified only as “Ava” said of her supervisors, “They made me feel like I was worthless and disposable.”
A former trainee who is referred to as “Jane Doe 1” in the suit described sexual harassment from four male classmates who tried to convince her to have sex with them. She said a friend had to escort her to her room because one of the men would follow her at night.
The suit alleges that more than 100 women who recently enrolled in the basic training course have encountered some form of gender discrimination, according to NBC. The problem is worse for women of color or those with disabilities, the suit alleges.
The FBI said in a statement, “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,” according to NBC. “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.”
The plaintiffs are being funded in part by the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, NBC reports. The fund seeks to help women who experience sexual harassment and retaliation at work.
Read the full story at NBC News.