WASHINGTON (CN) - Black special agents with the Secret Service can advance race bias claims as a class, with the help of an expert statistician, a federal judge ruled.
Eight current and former agents led by Reginald Moore have been fighting the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security in their discrimination suit since 2000.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts certified a class of black current and former SAs who say they have been denied promotions because of their race.
The Secret Service evaluates agents for promotions through its Special Agent Merit Promotion Program (MPP). The MPP evaluates and grades the agents across several levels and combines with recommendations made by an advisory board to fill vacant positions.
The plaintiffs say the process is unfair to black agents applying for GS-13 and 14 positions.
Moore, for example, has been a Secret Service agent for more than 20 years, serving as a GS-13 agent in the Operations Section and the White House Joint Operations Center.
He claims to have bid unsuccessfully for more than 180 GS-14 positions from 1999 to 2002. At one point, he had even been assigned to train a white agent for the position he had wanted.
"Moore eventually was promoted to a GS-14 and a GS-15 position, but he alleges that his promotions came only after being transferred to a Chicago field office, serving as an agent for 18 years, and, filing an EEO complaint and a lawsuit," according to the ruling, which abbreviates Equal Employment Office.
The statistician that the class retained as an expert witness, Dr. Charles Mann, fileed a report with the court concluding that the government's promotions process has an adverse impact on black agents.
Judge Roberts refused to exclude such testimony in the same ruling.
"The plaintiffs have shown by a preponderance of the evidence that Dr. Charles Mann is qualified to offer expert statistical testimony and that his testimony is relevant and reliable," he wrote.
The ruling notes that Mann plans to testify that "the use of MPP scores to create a cut-off for inclusion on the best qualified list disproportionately disqualifies African-American Special Agents for promotion." Mann also claims to have found a "statistically significant racial disparity in GS-14 and GS-15 promotions for the background period and the class period," according to the ruling.
The class period covers all black special agents who applied for and were denied GS-14 and GS-15 promotions between 1994 and 2005, on their first bid list. These parameters exclude special agents who served as an assistant director, deputy director or director of the Secret Service.
Vindication for the black agents comes on the heels of adverse ruling for an unrelated group of 45 agents claiming age discrimination. In February, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon threw out claims from all but four agents challenging new bureau term limits for squad supervisor positions.
The FBI has failed thus far to prove that the four remaining agents failed to timely file their complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In the racial discrimination case, Judge Roberts appointed John Relman, Jennifer Klar and Megan Cacace, of Relman, Dane & Colfax, to serve as class counsel along with Desmond Hogan of Hogan Lovells.
By Marc 18, the plaintiffs must propose a notice that would recruit eligible class members.