(CN) – Attorney General William Barr is ordering the Bureau of Prisons and the FBI to investigate possible discrimination against LGBTQ employees within the Department of Justice, according to a letter released on Friday.
The investigation comes a week after DOJ Pride, a group representing LGBTQ Justice Department employees, sent a letter to Barr alleging that its members face discrimination within the FBI and Bureau of Prisons and are often evaluated by their supervisors more harshly than their peers.
In the letter sent to Barr on March 29, the organization used comments from some of its members about the working environment within the Justice Department.
“This administration’s lack of regard for the wellbeing of its LGBTQ employees has led to the predictable result that many LGBTQ employees have left the Department,” the letter said.
Another employee commented that gay agents are being dismissed from the FBI academy “because they are not ‘bro-y’ or masculine enough.”
The group said gay men and transgender employees have faced discrimination within the Bureau of Prisons and that the bureau “does not attract or very often retain” such employees.
“Given the crucial role the Department fulfills in our society—enforcing the nation’s laws and administering justice—we are concerned that so many employees who dedicate themselves to the Department do not think the Department values them, or that it attracts the best and brightest of the LGBTQ community,” DOJ Pride wrote.
Barr responded in his letter Friday, signing a legally required Equal Employment Opportunity policy that states the Justice Department will not discriminate against its employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity, among other traits.
“Employment decisions at the Department must be made solely on merit and free of discrimination,” Barr wrote. “Every employee should know that I stand by that principle.”
Barr said he was “troubled by the concerns you raised about low morale and in particular about discrimination against LGBTQ employees.” Barr said he shared the group’s letter with the FBI and Bureau of Prisons and ordered them to investigation their claims.
“I know that these steps are not a cure-all,” Barr wrote. “But I believe that they are important, and I thank you for bringing these matters to my attention.”
In a statement released Friday, an FBI spokesperson said the agency was committed to fostering diversity and that it needs people “from all different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives to effectively accomplish our mission protecting the American people.”
“We hold our employees to the highest standard and do not tolerate discriminatory behaviors,” the statement said.
In its own statement, the Bureau of Prisons said it is “committed to ensuring a safe work place that is free of discrimination and harassment and dedicated to the principles of equal employment opportunity.”