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DEA gender discrimination lawsuit won after 20 years: Part I

We recently wrote about the US Labor Department's renewed public commitment to become a model workplace for GLBT relations. Announcements like this are important because governmental organizations should set the behavioral standards for private workplaces to follow.

Government action can sometimes be slow, and old stereotypes and prejudices still abound. However, progress is being made. Last month, a retired special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) finally won a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit against the agency. The case had been pending for 20 years.

Special Agent Ann Garcia Worked for the DEA from 1983 until her retirement just a few years ago. Her biggest ambition when she joined was to eventually qualify for an overseas position. The DEA at that time had approximately 70 foreign offices located in 50 different countries.

Between 1990 and 1992, she constantly applied for overseas assignments, hoping each application would be successful. According to DEA records, Garcia should have been the perfect candidate. Her work evaluations were reported as "excellent" and "outstanding." Furthermore, she had no children and her husband was retired. Therefore, foreign travel would have been easy.

However, Garcia soon noticed a disturbing pattern. She and other female agents were constantly passed over for these highly coveted overseas assignments. According to court documents, Garcia applied 17 times for foreign assignments and was denied every time. In 16 of those cases, male agents received the positions.

It was clear that this was no coincidence. She and other female agents noticed discriminatory words and practices that routinely favored male agents. Check back later this week as we discuss more about this important lawsuit, including what the outcome will mean for those involved.

Source: ABC News online, "Drug Enforcement Agency 'Repeatedly, Purposefully' Discriminated Against Women Agents," Ariane de Vogue, 26 May 2011

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