A Washington, D.C., federal judge has let 10 of 11 women anonymously accusing the Federal Bureau of Investigation of mistreating female trainees keep their names secret over concerns that unmasking them would jeopardize their safety and their work.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell largely granted the women's third motion to proceed under pseudonyms after they shored up arguments that their privacy outweighs the public and bureau's interests in disclosing their names. Because many of them work in law enforcement — in some cases undercover — they have good reasons for staying out of the public eye, the judge said.
But Judge Howell said one woman, a psychiatric counselor, doesn't face the same risks her counterparts do and declined to let her keep her pseudonym. The suit includes sixteen women, five of whom have sued under their names.
"The new facts and arguments presented in the moving plaintiffs' third motion to proceed under pseudonyms have demonstrated that, with the exception of L.M., these plaintiffs' significant interests in maintaining their anonymity at this early stage in the litigation are sufficient to overcome the general presumption in favor of open proceedings," Judge Howell said.
The women's late May suit accuses the FBI of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by washing them and other women out of its agent training program and otherwise mistreating them because of their sex. They allege the bureau not only made it harder for them to finish training than it did their male classmates, but also tolerated sex- and race-based harassment, including by instructors.
While some plaintiffs identified themselves, most asked to keep their names secret, citing personal and professional risks. Judge Howell denied their initial bid to proceed under pseudonyms early last month, saying their motion was short on reasons to let them keep their pseudonyms.
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