Blacks Accuse US Marshals Service of Bias

October 16, 2008 at 4:10 pm Leave a comment

Black employees of the U.S. Marshals Service filed a racial discrimination lawsuit Wednesday, saying they have been denied promotions by managers who belittled them as lazy.

The suit in U.S. District Court seeks broad changes in job practices at a law enforcement agency that has grappled with race bias accusations dating back to the 1990s. It cast the agency as a “good old boys network” that exploited loopholes to groom whites for leadership positions while reprimanding blacks for “trivial mistakes.”

Seeking to sue on behalf of 200 current or former black employees, the challenge alleges violations of federal civil rights laws. The suit is asking for damages of at least $300 million for lost back pay and harm suffered in a “hostile work environment.”

The allegations also come as black agents at the Secret Service, which protects presidents, their family members and other dignitaries, are making similar charges of denied promotions because of their race. That 2000 suit in federal court claims white colleagues and supervisors regularly use a racial epithet to refer to criminal suspects and black leaders of other countries.

“This is the way the agency treats African-American deputies all over the country,” said deputy marshal David Grogan, a 20-year employee. “If you’re an African American doing a good job, they’re going to find some loophole or exception to keep you from getting ahead.”

Suing in the case are Grogan of Bowie, Md., and chief deputy marshal James Brooks, of Brandywine, Md. Their complaint charges the Marshals Service:

_Systematically denied special assignments and training to blacks despite their seniority and qualifications.

_Canceled vacant higher-ranking job positions when white applicants didn’t qualify under the agency’s merit ranking system.

_Failed to provide timely notice of job openings to many black employees.

The Marshals Service, a division of the Justice Department, has 4,700 employees and is responsible for apprehending fugitives and protecting federal judges.

Jeff Carter, an agency spokesman, said, “These allegations do not reflect the culture of this agency or the high standards to which we hold our employees.”

Grogan said he repeatedly was denied promotions to senior positions despite commendations for his service from the departments of Justice and Homeland Security.

In one incident, Grogan said he was taunted and insulted by a manager for using the gym. Agency policy allows deputies up to three hours a week of gym time, but the manager said he “set a bad example” because he spent too much time exercising and did not take his job seriously. That manager also agreed when a white co-worker asserted that Grogan “doesn’t take his job seriously because he works out at 0600,” even though that co-worker often napped at work, according to the complaint.

David Sanford, a lawyer for the black employees, contended that discrimination at the Marshals Service dated back to at least the mid-1990s. He noted that Matthew Fogg, a former black deputy marshal, won a $4 million jury verdict in his racial bias suit against the Marshals Service that alleged denied promotions and choice assignments.

“This discrimination is long-standing, pervasive and cannot be allowed to persist,” Sanford said.

___

On the Net:

U.S. Marshals Service: http://www.usmarshals.gov/

Source: AP

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Entry filed under: African-American, National. Tags: , , , , , , .

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