2 female agents sue FBI, claiming discrimination

March 13, 1994|By N.Y. Times News Service

LOS ANGELES -- Two female agents have sued the FBI for sexual discrimination, charging that their superiors at the male-dominated agency have sexually harassed them and then retaliated against them for making formal complaints.

In what is the latest of a series of discrimination complaints against federal law enforcement agencies, the two agents, based in Santa Ana, 25 miles south of Los Angeles, described crude behavior and intimidation in court papers filed Friday.

Neither of the agents, Heather Power-Anderson and Boni Carr Alduenda, would discuss the case. Their lawyer, Christopher Mears, said that it was the first time that female agents had sued the bureau while still on the job.

"Monday is going to be an interesting day for them," he said.

Ms. Power-Anderson, a special agent since 1984, and Ms. Alduenda, a special agent since 1988, said that their supervisor, John Carpenter, had made unwelcome sexual comments and advances for more than a year, despite their objections.

When they complained separately to James Donckels, the head of the Santa Ana office, they said, they were threatened and intimidated. Each woman said he had told her, "Remember, when you make these complaints, you better have your ducks in a row."

Both women said their supervisors had responded to their complaints by engaging in "close monitoring" of their work, downgrading of their personnel evaluations and refusing to transfer them from their workplaces near Mr. Carpenter.

They said that they were initially denied their opportunity to file discrimination complaints with the EEOC and were instead required to file grievances for an internal review that did not provide them with relief.

Since proceeding with their complaints, the two agents said, their work atmosphere has become "oppressive and burdensome."

tTC FBI spokesmen said they had not seen the complaint and could not comment on a pending case.

The FBI has been seeking to shore up its reputation in the face of discrimination suits by black and Hispanic agents, but its culture has been slow to change.

Over the past two years, women and minorities have become aggressive in pressing complaints against federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

In 1991, about 540 black agents filed a class-action that was the largest discrimination suit ever against the federal government. The case is pending.

Last month, a judge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission cleared the way for a suit by about 550 agents and supervisors who claimed they had been systematically denied promotions by the immigration service.

Women have been the most vocal individual complainants. Last fall, Suzane J. Doucette, an agent based in Arizona, sued and resigned, saying her superiors had refused to take seriously her complaints of sexual harassment.

Until the death of J. Edgar Hoover in 1972, the FBI refused to hire female agents. There are now about 1,200 female agents, accounting for 11 percent of the force of 10,300. The percentage is slightly higher in the Santa Ana office, where there are 10 women among the 65 agents, Mr. Mears said.

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