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Female FBI Trainees Can Pursue Class Suit Anonymously, for Now

July 5, 2019, 2:01 PM

Ten female FBI trainees suing the agency for alleged classwide employment discrimination have convinced a federal judge to allow them to pursue the case using pseudonyms.

The anonymous agents provided a reason for allowing them to conceal their identities in the early stages of the case, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said July 3. Eight of the women still work in the federal law enforcement or intelligence communities and provided details of how their careers or safety could be jeopardized if forced to sue under their real names, the court said.

One woman works in a contract position with the CIA, another works undercover, and a third is applying for a surveillance position that will require her to shield her identity from the media, Judge Beryl A. Howell said. Another is employed on a counter-terrorism squad, one has been told public knowledge of her participation in the lawsuit could risk her effectiveness and safety in an undercover role she is seeking, and another is a former member of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the judge said.

Two of the 10 don’t currently work in federal law enforcement or intelligence, but are either currently seeking or hoping to seek reinstatement with the FBI, Howell said. One says she previously was the victim of a stalker and the other says revealing her identity would handicap her ability to exploit confidential sources, Howell said.

The 10 women are part of a group of 16 who sued the FBI May 29. They allege female trainees have been subjected to a hostile environment based on sex since at least April 2015. Black and disabled female trainees also experience “gender-plus” bias, they allege.

Howell previously denied requests by the 10 trainees and another woman to pursue the lawsuit without revealing their names. They didn’t provide enough details of their necessity to sue anonymously to overcome the traditional rule requiring parties to sue using their real names, he said.

But 10 of them have now furnished those details and may sue anonymously, at least for now, the court said. The judge to whom the case is assigned will “be in the best position to reassess whether” that should be permitted to remain anonymous as the case moves forward, the court said.

The eleventh woman still failed to established grounds for letting her sue anonymously, Howell said.

David J. Shaffer represents the proposed class. No attorney had filed an appearance yet for the FBI.

The case is Bird v. Barr, 2019 BL 248937, D.D.C., No. 19-cv-1581, 7/3/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Carmen Castro-Pagan at and Jo-el J. Meyer at