- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Justice Department on Tuesday asked a federal judge to toss a lawsuit filed by current and former female FBI recruits who say there’s a culture of sexual harassment at the bureau’s training academy in Quantico, Virginia.

Department lawyers said the case should be dismissed because the women raised separate allegations against different instructors over several years and did not identify a specific FBI policy that resulted in the alleged harassment.

Instead, each of the 16 women must file an individual complaint rather than collectively pursue a class-action lawsuit against the FBI, the lawyers said.

“Here, plaintiffs have simply failed to allege the required ‘glue’ holding their allegations of disparate treatment together,” the department wrote.

The department compared the claims of two FBI trainees, maintaining their cases were too distinct to be consolidated into one case.

One of the women in 2015 accused her instructor of making inappropriate comments about how she dressed, while another woman said in 2018 she was the victim of unwanted sexual advances from other trainees.

The Justice Department said the resolution of one claim would not “have any bearing” on the resolution of another case.

“The instructors and fellow trainees who are alleged to have discriminated, as well as the timing and the factual nature of the alleged discrimination, are entirely different in the administrative complaints and allegations of” the two plaintiffs, department lawyers wrote.

“Accordingly, to resolve these two separate administrative complaints, the FBI necessarily would have conducted two completely separate investigations which would have involved gathering distinct documents and interviewing different witnesses.”

Last year, the 16 women — including seven who worked at the FBI at the time — filed a lawsuit saying they were subjected to a hostile work environment and overt sexual harassment and were unfairly punished for behavior that was overlooked for their male counterparts.

Recruits’ complaints included one saying she was sexually harassed and mocked for her disability and others who said they were constantly pressured for sex by male recruits.

One recruit said in the lawsuit two men badgered her for sex in the back of a car, while others encouraged her to sneak off to an empty room for sex. A 55-year-old agent slipped her his phone number, while another agent texted her 15 times a day until she told him to stop, according to the lawsuit.

The case took an unusual turn late last year when one of the plaintiffs said her supervisors at the FBI unfairly retaliated against her and co-worker for their involvement in the lawsuit.

Erika Welsey, an analyst for the FBI’s Phoenix, Arizona, office, said she was barred from teleworking, transferred to a new supervisor and had her workload reduced.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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