Secret Service settles discrimination lawsuit with black agents

Secret Service settles discrimination lawsuit with black agents

[JURIST] The US Secret Service [official website] agreed to a $24 million settlement [text, PDF] with 10 black agents who accused the agency of racial discrimination in a 2000 federal lawsuit. The agents accused the Secret Service of discriminatory practices in promotions, hiring, assignment and transfer practices and of fostering a racially hostile workplace. Under the settlement, the Secret Service could pay as much as $300,000 to each of the original plaintiffs. Jennifer Klar [official profile], counsel for the plaintiffs, told [WP report] the Washington Post “at long last . . . black Secret Service agents will not be constrained by the glass ceiling that held back so many for so long.” The Secret Service has admitted no wrongdoing connected to the lawsuit but has agreed to reform its employment and promotion practices, the complaint process for employees and how it keeps records. According to [Chicago Tribune report] spokeswoman Catherine Milhoan “while the Secret Service takes all allegations in this case seriously, the organization has, and continues to be, committed to a fair and transparent promotion process”. A statement [press release] issued by the Department of Homeland Security [official website] said that “this settlement is … simply, the right thing to do.”

The lead plaintiff in the case, Ray Moore, had been a member of President Bill Clinton’s detail and had unsuccessfully bid 200 times for a promotion, even training many of the white agents who came to outrank him. Some of the evidence unearthed during the proceedings revealed a workplace culture that during the 1990s and 2000s tolerated racist jokes and slurs, and warned the black agents to stay quiet or risk hurting their careers. Settlement talks were driven primarily by Jeh Johnson [official profile], Secretary of Homeland Security, and they carry symbolic weight at the end of an eight-year period in which the Secret Service’s primary job was protecting the country’s first black president. The settlement also occurs amidst a turbulent time for the agency, which has suffered a series of blunders in recent years and has had to overhaul most of its senior management.