DEA Class Action
August 2020 Update — New EEOC Judge Assigned to the Case
The EEOC reassigned consideration of the relief claims of Class Members to a new EEOC Administrative Judge for this case. Consideration of the claims has been assigned to Judge Zachary Wright. Judge Wright set a status conference with the parties’ attorneys to take place on September 4, 2020.
We will provide updated information regarding anything we learn about the processing of the Class Member claims during the September status conference, or any other news in the case, on this website. Please be sure to monitor this website for any updates.
EEOC CONFIRMS CLASS-WIDE DISCRIMINATION, CLAIM FORMS NOW DUE
The EEOC issued a decision in August 2014 upholding the Administrative Judge’s finding of class-wide discrimination against female special agents. The case has taken over 20 years to get to this class-wide finding of liability. The EEOC has ordered DEA to institute a five-year “Gender Discrimination Remedy Plan.” In addition, the EEOC affirmed a $150,000 award of compensatory damages to Class Agent Ann Garcia and over $1 million in attorneys fees and costs. DEA must also conduct training for all management officials and consider taking disciplinary action against certain managers. See the EEOC final decision here.
The EEOC has instructed DEA to begin the processing of damages for class members. Individual class members will now have the opportunity to file claim forms and seek damages for the class-wide harm. If you are a class member, you should be sure to complete and submit a Claim Form right away.
TO BE SAFE, IT IS BEST TO BE SURE TO SUBMIT A COMPLETED CLAIM FORM BY SEPTEMBER 23, 2014. YOU CAN ACCESS THE CLAIM FORM BY CLICKING HERE.
The law firm of Kator, Parks, Weiser, & Harris, PLLC, represented the class, and all class members. Class members should contact KPWH as soon as possible to begin the process of recovering their individual damages.
DEA ASKS EEOC TO RECONSIDER DECISION
On July 10, 2013, DEA filed a “Request for Reconsideration” with the EEOC regarding the finding of class-wide discrimination. On behalf of the Class, Kator, Parks, Weiser, & Harris, PLLC, filed an Opposition brief on July 31, 2013. We now await the EEOC’s ruling on the Request for Reconsideration. In the meantime, class members should contact Juliette Niehuss at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (202) 898-4800 as soon as possible to begin the process of recovering their individual damages.
EEOC FINDS CLASS-WIDE DISCRIMINATION, ORDERS HEARINGS TO DETERMINE MONETARY DAMAGES
On June 7, 2013, the EEOC upheld an Administrative Judge’s order finding that DEA discriminated against female Special Agents who sought career-enhancing assignments to DEA’s foreign offices. Ann Garcia, now a retired DEA Special Agent, filed a complaint against DEA in 1989 for its discriminatory treatment of more than 200 female Special Agents. She claimed that DEA refused to assign female Special Agents to overseas posts out of chauvinistic beliefs that females were unsuited for foreign assignment. The cost to the DEA in damages is expected to be in the tens of millions of dollars.
Evidence at the trial included testimony that female agents were told that pregnant female agents were “useless,” that female agents should be home having babies, single mothers had no business traveling overseas, that if a female agent wanted to travel overseas she should “stop getting pregnant,” and female agents did not deserve to be on the job and their true intentions were to sleep with male agents and live off their income.
The case has taken over two full decades to litigate. Throughout, Ann Garcia has remained stalwart in her efforts to end DEA’s discriminatory practices. She said today:
I am grateful to the EEOC for calling DEA to task for its sexist treatment of the brave women who served our country. After two decades, we have been vindicated.
Cathy Harris, attorney for the class, said:
The DEA is finally going to have to repair the damage that it did to so many women’s careers. Had DEA remedied this problem long ago, perhaps we would not be seeing the continuation of sexual harassment against female federal workers today.
In addition to ordering DEA to pay damages to Ms. Garcia and all of the class members, the EEOC ordered DEA to implement a Gender Discrimination Remedy Plan to ensure that the discrimination within the agency does not continue. DEA must also conduct training for all management officials and consider taking disciplinary action against certain managers. The current Administrator of the DEA, Michelle Leonhart, is a class member, and is eligible to seek damages.
The law firm of Kator, Parks, Weiser, & Harris, PLLC, represented the class. Class members should contact KPWH as soon as possible to begin the process of recovering their individual damages.
FINAL AGENCY DECISION ISSUED, WILL BE APPEALED
The Department of Justice issued its Final Decision in this case, reversing the EEOC Administrative Judge’s decision finding class-wide discrimination. DOJ determined that the class complaint should not have been certified, and that the class had failed to establish its claim that DEA discriminated against female Special Agents in foreign assignments.
See a copy of the DOJ Final Decision by clicking here.
Class Counsel will be filing an appeal of the DOJ Decision with the EEOC Office of Federal Operations. The EEOC will then be the agency responsible for making the final decision in the case.
Please monitor this website for status updates on the appeal. Thank you, and we appreciate the patience of every class member.
BACKGROUND ON THE CASE
On March 17, 1993, Ann Garcia, now a retired DEA Special Agent, filed a formal class complaint of discrimination against the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), alleging that the DEA had denied her and other similarly situated female Special Agents foreign assignments and promotions based on their gender.
The EEOC administrative judge initially denied certification of the class complaint. Class Agent Garcia decided to appeal that decision to the Office of Federal Operations (“OFO”) on behalf of the class as a whole. While the OFO affirmed the administrative judge’s ruling on August 19, 1996, we as class counsel moved for the OFO to reconsider its decision. On October 1, 1998, we won with regard to foreign assignments. The OFO certified the class as “those female Special Agents who were denied foreign assignments between 1990 and 1992.”
The case was processed as a class complaint by the EEOC, though it took over six years to issue an order acknowledging and accepting the class complaint for investigation and adjudication. On March 10, 2005, a scheduling order was issued and the case proceeded to discovery. We as class counsel conducted extensive discovery of the DEA’s gender-biased policies and practices in selecting Special Agents for foreign assignments, including evidence of de facto disqualification of females from consideration from such assignments because their spouses were employed or because they were single mothers.
On December 8, 2006, the Agency filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, to dismiss the class complaint. The EEOC took over two years to issue a ruling, but on March 26, 2009, the EEOC administrative judge denied the Agency’s motion and issued a Scheduling order, setting an administrative trial for the class complaint in July 2009.
The case finally went to a hearing in July 2009. The evidence at the trial included testimony that objective qualifications were not as important as “who you know and who you blow.” Female agents were told that pregnant female agents were “useless,” that female agents should be home having babies, single mothers had no business traveling overseas, that if a female agent wanted to travel overseas they should “stop getting pregnant,” and female agents did not deserve to be on the job and their true intentions were to sleep with male agents and live off their income.
On April 27, 2011, Administrative Judge Frances del Toro of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that the DEA discriminated against a class of female special agents in career-enhancing foreign assignments and promotions in the early 1990s.
On January 12, 2012, Administrative Judge del Toro issued her Report of Findings and Recommendations, including an award of relief for Class Agent Ann Garcia. The Administrative Judge also required that the DEA “immediately take corrective action to ensure that the discrimination . . . does not recur.” The systemic relief ordered includes:
- Mandatory anti-discrimination training to supervisors, managers and staff involved in the selection process for overseas positions.
- Consideration of disciplinary action against the responsible management officials who were named in the Report of Findings.
- Immediately ceasing making inquiries to applicants for overseas positions about their marital or family status.
The Administrative Judge also awarded attorneys fees and costs incurred by Class Counsel in the suit.
The Department of Justice is now considering implementing the Administrative Judge’s Report of Findings. We expect that determination in mid-March 2012. If the Report of Findings is adopted, all potential Class Members will be notified of their right to file an individual claim of relief. Relief may include retroactive placement in a foreign assignment, back pay, and compensatory damages. If the Report of Findings is rejected or modified, an appeal to the EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations is expected.
If you believe you are a class member who may want to file a claim for individual relief, please contact:
Kator, Parks, & Weiser & Harris, PLLC
1200 18th St., N.W. Suite 1000
Washington, D.C. 20036