On November 16, 1990, African-American agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) sued the agency, then a branch of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, in the United District Court for the District of Columbia (Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth) alleging racial discrimination in hiring, promotion, benefits, and other aspects of employment.
Several parties moved to intervene, including the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the A.T.F. Hispanic Agents' Association, the National Association of Treasury Agents (NATA), andseveral dozen individual movants. The Complaint
The complaint and amended complaints are not publicly available. However, according to a published district court order issued on November 21, 1996, current and former black special agents of the ATF filed a class action lawsuit alleging disparate impact and treatment based on race in promotions, discipline, awards, assignment, hiring, wrongful terminations, retaliation, and other areas. Stewart v. Rubin
, 948 F. Supp. 1077 (D.D.C. 1996). The plaintiffs cited the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-16 et seq. and sought injunctive relief, retroactive promotions and tenure, back pay, compensatory damages, and attorneys' fees and costs.
On November 21, 1996, the District Court certified a class under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2) of "all African-American individuals who were ATF Special Agents in the GS-1811 Series at any time between December 25, 1983 and the Entry of Judgment in the District Court." Stewart v. Rubin
, 948 F. Supp. 1077 (D.D.C. 1996). The Court also gave final approval to a settlement agreement under the strict scrutiny standard of Section 108 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(n)., which precluded future challenges to the terms of the settlement.
The settlement included $4.7 million in damages for back pay, mental anguish, and pain and suffering. The defendants were also to pay $1.2 million in attorneys' fees for the lawsuit and up to $150,000 for costs of administering the settlement. The settlement included non-monetary relief, which required the ATF to develop a revised hiring and promotion policy, among other . The ATF's director would be the final arbiter of any decisions, although a "recommending official" selected by mutual consent of both parties would participate in decisions. The ATF was also required to collaborate with the plaintiffs' expert in developing a new promotion policy.Intervention
The November 1996 opinion also dealt with intervenors' motions. Several hundred non-class members challenged the settlement, including Hispanic agents and white agents who alleged the settlement would adversely affect them. However, the District Court dismissed these motions for untimeliness and lack of standing. On May 22, 1997, in an unpublished table opinion in the Federal Reporter, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the District Court's denial of the motions to intervene. See Stewart v. Rubin,
124 F.3d 1309 (C.A.D.C. 1997).Disagreement Over Compliance With The Settlement
On July 1, 1999, in an unpublished opinion, the District Court denied the plaintiffs' motion for an order to enforce the terms of the settlement. The ATF was laterally transfering field agents to headquarters. The plaintiffs alleged this violated the settlement agreement because it required competitive promotions for headquarters positions, rather than lateral transfers. However, the court found that transfers to headquarters were not "promotions" within the terms of the agreement because they did not increase pay grade.
On September 3, 2002, the District Court denied the plaintiffs' motion to hold the Treasury Department Secretary in contempt for failure to comply with the settlement. Stewart v. O'Neill,
225 F. Supp. 2d 6 (D.D.C. 2002). The Court held that there was no basis for extending its jurisdiction over the settlement agreement, which had since lapsed, and that the defendant had breached the agreement only in failing to timely provide statistical reports, which did not justify a contempt order.
On September 21, 2004, in an unpublished order, the District Court entered final judgment, in order to allow an appeal. The plaintiffs' motion for final judgment outlines many allegations against the Treasury Department as to why it should have been held in contempt. On April 1, 2009, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in an unpublished order, dismissed the plaintiffs' appeal. This is the last entry on the docket.Eric Weiler - 08/15/2010