Seattle FBI Sex Discrimination Case Rattles Agency

Seattle FBI Sex Discrimination Case Rattles Agency

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 Seattle FBI Sex Discrimination Case Rattles Agency

One of the nation's top FBI agents has alleged that the agency discriminated against her illegally on the basis of her sex.  Special Agent-in-Charge Laura Laughlin, the agent in charge of FBI operations in the Seattle area, has been allowed by a judge to proceed with her case in federal court after suing for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Before taking her case to court, Laughlin attempted to bring the discriminatory incidents up with her supervisor.  As early as 1997, court documents show that Laughlin had alleged sex based discrimination against her supervisor.  She also said that some special agents had racially and sexually discriminated against a supervisor.

While Laughlin was promoted to being Special Agent-in-Charge, she notes that she has been denied at least ten promotions, and alleges that the reason her promotions were denied was based in sex discrimination and retaliation for her complaints.

According to the complaint, although Laughlin has now worked for the FBI for over 27 years, she is no longer able to find any room for advancement within the organization.  While other Special Agents-in-Charge have unquestioned authority over bureau operations in their area, Laughlin claims that she has had her authority undermined by her superiors.

Typically, the role of Special Agent-in-Charge is one that is only held for a small portion of an FBI Special Agent's career before they move up in the organization or leave for a lateral transfer in a private organization or other government agency.  However, because of the promotions she has been denied, Laughlin says in court documents that she is now the second longest serving Special Agent in Charge in the entire FBI.

In addition to being denied promotions, Laughlin says that she has been denied requests for additional necessary staff for her office.  She has also faced pressure to resign for more than five years, but says she does not wish to resign from her office.

The federal judge overseeing the case dismissed some of the allegations last week, saying that while Laughlin could sue for sex discrimination, there was insufficient evidence to show that the bureau had also been guilty of age discrimination.  The judge also refused to allow Laughlin to allege that she had suffered from a hostile workplace.  According to court documents, this was because the judge believed  the incidents of sex discrimination to have been relatively isolated and infrequent.  Laughlin may still pursue claims that she was retaliated and discriminated against for being a woman.

Sources: uscourts.gov, seattletimes.com

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