Hot Docs: Agents fire back at FBI for alleged age discrimination

December 16, 2010

FBI badgeClearly, 40 is the new 30… except over at the FBI, where some might say it’s the new 65.

Several years ago, the FBI decided to shake up the management ranks by limiting the terms of high-ranking supervisors to five years in the same office. Now, 45 of those high-ranking supervisors have filed an age-discrimination lawsuit against the FBI.

The agents’ complaint alleges that the FBI’s policy of forcing supervisors over the age of 40 to leave positions they were successfully serving violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

Hot Doc: Allard et al. v. Holder (D.D.C.)

Source: Westlaw News & Insight – National Litigation

Here are some pertinent facts in the case, drawn from the plaintiffs’ complaint:

  • In 2004, all 45 plaintiffs were Grade 14 Supervisory Special Agents (SSAs) and squad supervisors, the highest pay grade in the FBI, with salaries starting at $105,000.
  • That year, the FBI adopted a five-year “Term Limit Policy” for field office supervisors, which meant that all 45 plaintiffs would have three choices: accept a transfer to another FBI office, face a demotion in rank and pay, or leave the agency altogether. Before that, there were no limitations on how long they could remain in their positions.
  • According to the FBI’s own data, the FBI knew at the time that the new policy would affect 278 agents, all of whom were over the age of 40.
  • The policy made no exceptions for agents with special circumstances, including one parent of a child with a severe medical condition whose transfer would have meant an interruption in the child’s treatment.
  • After the plaintiffs were demoted or reassigned, the term limits for the younger agents who replaced them was increased to seven years, and the required years of service for younger agents to become supervisors was reduced.
  • No term limits were placed on another group of Grade 14 agents, the Supervisory Intelligence Analysts (SIAs). The complaint states that the SIA position was created after 9/11 and that SIAs are generally much younger than SSAs.

The agents are seeking an order that would restore them to their previous positions with back pay and other benefits, award them liquidated damages equal to their pay losses, enjoin the FBI from further discrimination or retaliation, and force the FBI to pay their attorneys’ fees.

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