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Report: Women in federal law enforcement face discrimination

A recently released Justice Department report from the inspector general contends women are underrepresented in high-ranking positions at a number of the top federal law enforcement agencies in the United States.

The report took a look at the workforce demographics at the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It found that women represented just 16 percent of criminal investigators, according to a 2016 accounting.

Additionally, the report said that during the one year studied, no women occupied leadership positions at ATF headquarters. The inspector general said, "There were few women leading field offices, field divisions, or districts and even fewer women in headquarters executive positions leading operational units." The report also stated that most men said they received equal treatment at work, but most women didn't agree.

More than 8,000 employees were surveyed as a part of the report. In all, 22 percent of women, along with 43 percent of female criminal investigators, said they had endured gender discrimination of some type in the past five years. The women said they did not report the discrimination in most cases because they were afraid of retaliation or being perceived as a troublemaker.

The review by the inspector general was the result of complaints of harassment and gender discrimination at the four federal law enforcement agencies. After reviewing the results, leadership at the agencies said they would change their practices when it comes to recruitment and promotion, as well as reporting discrimination.

The acknowledgment from all four agencies that change must occur is a good first step. Still, if you find you are a victim of discrimination in a federal agency, there are laws on the books to protect you. Learning more about federal workplace laws will help you better understand your legal rights if you've experienced on-the-job discrimination.

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