FBI's Latin Singer Sues Justice Department
(CN) - Jealous FBI employees harassed a co-worker who moonlights as a Latin singer, falsely accusing her of sleeping with the boss to get a promotion, the longtime FBI employee claims in a lawsuit against the the Department of Justice.
Erika Y. Bonilla sued the Justice Department in Albuquerque Federal Court.
She claims the FBI hired her in late 2002 and promoted her to administrative specialist in 2007. This set off the harassment, from other employees who thought another woman, Maria Grossetete, should have got the job, Bonilla says.
Neither Grossetete nor any other FBI employee is named as a defendant. The only defendants are the Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.
The complaint states: "The employees would not train plaintiff or work with her in a non-hostile manner, and they also spread malicious gossip in the office that plaintiff only obtained her position because of her appearance. SA [Special Agent William] Elwell falsely stated that the reason the position was given to plaintiff was because the plaintiff had sexual relations with executive management in the Albuquerque Office."
Bonilla claims she was also falsely accused of stealing money and not handling leads property - accusations of which she was exonerated.
"Ms. Bonilla was targeted, harassed and retaliated against because she is an attractive Hispanic female with a career in Latin music," the complaint states. "The co-workers and the Agency improperly considered Ms. Bonilla's music career, her appearance and attire, without any corroborating evidence that there were ever any issues with these affecting her work performance. ...
"She was also discriminated against because she is a Hispanic female who received the position she had over Maria Grossetete, and because several coworkers were jealous of her appearance and Latin singing career."
The complaint adds: "There have also been complaints about what plaintiff does in her off-duty hours. Plaintiff has submitted the appropriate outside employment forms as work as a singer.
"Plaintiff is a professional Latin music singer, has released an album and signed a recording contract for a second album. She has performed at various FBIHQ functions and the FBI is well aware of, and allows her to work as a singer.
"Gossip was spread in the office that plaintiff was not paying her taxes on income from singing.
"There have been false complaints made from this same group of people that plaintiff works on her singing website at work such as Facebook and MySpace. That is blatantly false, as she is not even be able [sic] to access her website from the government computers, given the security settings."
Bonilla claims that her work duties "have since been broken down into four different jobs held by four different people."
Bonilla claims she was transferred to an FBI office in California because of the harassment.
She seeks actual and punitive damages for gender and racial discrimination, retaliation, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and a declaration that the federal government's employment practices violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
She is represented by Monnica Garcia, with Bowles & Crow in Albuquerque.