Washington: Sixteen women have sued the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) accusing it of running a "good-old-boy network" at its training academy that discriminates against females, in some cases because of race and disabilities in addition to gender.
Male instructors at the academy in Quantico, Virginia, exposed the women beginning in 2015 to a hostile work environment, sexual harassment and inappropriate jokes, according to the lawsuit filed on Wednesday.
One woman said that an instructor referred to an African-American female trainee as "spaghetti head", a reference to her braids. The woman also said training agents made repeated sexual advances, The New York Times reported.
In particular, the lawsuit takes aim at the tactical training that plays out Hogan's Alley, the academy's mock town where hired actors play terrorists and criminals. Trainees practice making dangerous arrests where they use weapons.
Many of the female agent recruits were kicked out of the academy during this phase more quickly and more often than men were.
"The real purpose of the suit is to change the culture of the FBI," said David J. Shaffer, the lawyer for the women.
The suit also named former FBI Director James Comey, who is accused by one woman of dismissing her complaints, and Mark Morgan, President Donald Trump's nominee to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who was involved in the dismissal of female trainees.
The women who sued, seven of whom continue to work for the FBI, have asked for a review of the training evaluation process; $300,000 each for emotional stress; and more female training instructors.
The FBI declined to comment on the lawsuit but said in a statement on Wednesday night that it was "committed to fostering a work environment where all of our employees are valued and respected".
Internal figures provided by the FBI showed the bureau's efforts to recruit more women were gaining traction.
The FBI said the number of women applying to be agents had increased from 22% in 2017 to 36% this year, surpassing the bureau's goal of 33% for the current fiscal year.