University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Bird v. Barr EE-DC-0081
Docket / Court 1:19-cv-01581 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Case Summary
On May 29, 2019, a group of female Intelligence Analyst and Agent Trainees at the FBI’s Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of themselves and a class of more than 125 female Agent and Analyst Trainees ... read more >
On May 29, 2019, a group of female Intelligence Analyst and Agent Trainees at the FBI’s Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia filed this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of themselves and a class of more than 125 female Agent and Analyst Trainees who had been subjected to similar gender-based harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. The plaintiffs sued the Attorney General of the United States in his official capacity under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought class certification, declaratory relief, and a permanent injunction prohibiting the FBI, its officers, agents, employees and successors, from engaging in the discriminatory employment practices against women. Additionally, they sought back pay, damages up to $300,000 for emotional distress for each member of the class, additional compensatory damages, and attorneys’ fees. The female Trainees accused the FBI of running the Training Academy as a “Good Old Boy Network.” The plaintiffs claimed that they had been sexually harassed, subjected to a hostile work environment and outdated gender stereotypes, terminated, constructively discharged, forced to resign under pressure (or perceived that continuing in the training would be a futile gesture), suffered retaliation, and/or suffered other types of harassment in whole or in part because of their gender since April 10, 2015. The plaintiffs alleged that these violations where magnified when the trainee was a woman of color or had a disability. The plaintiffs with disabilities claimed they were denied reasonable accommodations and publicly humiliated for their disability.

In particular, the plaintiffs claimed that the FBI discriminated against them on the basis of sex during training by issuing notations of violations for perceived practical skills deficiencies and subsequent review measures to female Agent and Analyst Trainees at a rate higher than their male counterparts. The plaintiffs further alleged that the training instructors assumed that male Trainees had better tactical instincts due to gender-based stereotypes and that female Trainees were often singled out in class because they were perceived as being weak and prone to failure. As a result, the plaintiffs alleged they received far more notations than their male counterparts who were not singled out.

At the same time as the filing of the complaint, eleven of the sixteen plaintiffs filed a motion to proceed under pseudonyms for two reasons: first, the plaintiffs wanted to preserve their privacy due to the sensitive and highly personal nature of the allegations in the complaint and second, the plaintiffs feared a risk of retaliatory physical or emotional harm in their law enforcement work. On June 6, 2019, Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell granted in part and denied in part this motion. Chief Howell granted the motion to conceal the home addresses of the plaintiffs. However, Chief Howell denied the motion to proceed under pseudonyms because discrepancies between their original and amended complaint created confusion regarding which person would be associated with which pseudonym. Chief Howell further stated that the plaintiffs did not individually give sufficient proof that their privacy interests outweighed the public’s interest in disclosure. The plaintiffs filed for reconsideration, and on July 3, 2019, Chief Judge Howell permitted ten of the plaintiffs to proceed under pseudonyms due to the risks posed to their safety as well as the potential threat to their careers in law enforcement. 2019 WL 2870234. The case was then assigned to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on July 8, 2019.

The plaintiffs subsequently moved for a preliminary injunction for protection from FBI retaliation. They argued that since the filing of the lawsuit plaintiffs and witnesses faced explicit threats of termination and other retaliatory actions for involvement in the lawsuit. On September 10, 2019, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson denied the motion for lack of jurisdiction because the retaliatory events were not included in the complaint.

In response, on September 12, 2019 the plaintiffs amended their complaint to include allegations of retaliation taken against one of the plaintiffs as a result of her involvement in the lawsuit in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Rehabilitation Act. They also added requests to certify the proposed class and recognize Analyst Trainees and Agent Trainees as subclasses. Additionally, the amended complaint modified the requested relief. It removed the $300,000 cap on compensatory damages for each member of the class for emotional distress. The amended complaint included specific compensatory requests for four individuals in addition to the compensatory requests for the members of the class.

On September 25, 2019 the plaintiffs once again moved for a preliminary injunction for protection from FBI retaliation.

As of October 4, 2019, the motion for a preliminary injunction for protection from retaliation remained pending. This case is ongoing.

Olivia Vigiletti - 10/04/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
Discrimination-area
Discharge / Constructive Discharge / Layoff
Discipline
Harassment / Hostile Work Environment
Training
Discrimination-basis
Sex discrimination
General
Disparate Impact
Disparate Treatment
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
Defendant(s) Attorney General of the United States
Plaintiff Description 16 female New Agent Trainees and Intelligence Analyst Trainees at the FBI’s Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia who have been subjected to harassment, discrimination, and retaliation on the basis of their sex
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
1:19-cv-1581 (D.D.C.)
EE-DC-0081-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/16/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
EE-DC-0081-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/29/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 3] (D.D.C.)
EE-DC-0081-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/06/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 6] (2019 WL 2870234) (D.D.C.)
EE-DC-0081-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/03/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 21] (D.D.C.)
EE-DC-0081-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/10/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 22]
EE-DC-0081-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/12/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Howell, Beryl Alaine (D.D.C.) show/hide docs
EE-DC-0081-0002 | EE-DC-0081-0004
Jackson, Ketanji Brown (D.D.C.) show/hide docs
EE-DC-0081-0005 | EE-DC-0081-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cammarano, Stacy N. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EE-DC-0081-0003 | EE-DC-0081-9000
Sellers, Joseph Marc (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EE-DC-0081-0003 | EE-DC-0081-9000
Shaffer, David J. (Maryland) show/hide docs
EE-DC-0081-0001 | EE-DC-0081-0003 | EE-DC-0081-9000
Webber, Christine E. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EE-DC-0081-0003 | EE-DC-0081-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Tomlinson, Martin (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EE-DC-0081-9000

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