Black Agents Sue Secret Service Over Discrimination

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

Washington ( - A group of veteran black Secret Service agents, claiming that a discriminatory "glass ceiling" retards or prevents the promotion of blacks to senior management positions, officially asked the federal government for relief on Thursday.

A complaint filed with the equal opportunity office of the Secret Service alleged that black agents, many of whom have served on details protecting President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, have suffered a pervasive pattern of discrimination involving performance evaluations, transfers, assignments, training, promotions and "a racially hostile work environment."

Wire service reports say that lawyers for the agents made clear they are prepared to sue in federal court if their demands for better treatment for black agents are not satisfied by the Secret Service.

Secret Service spokesmen have not responded to telephone calls seeking comment on this matter.

John P. Relman, one of the lawyers representing the black Secret Service agents, said at a news conference that there is no evidence that either Clinton or Gore ever had any involvement with racial discrimination against the black agents who protect their lives.

However, Relman said, "The stain of racial discrimination has found its way into the shadow of the White House. We call for the direct intervention of the president or the vice president to assure that these practices are investigated and are stopped.''

Relman and attorney David J. Shaffer said the plaintiffs were referred to them by six black Secret Service officers-in-uniform who successfully sued Denny's restaurants alleging discrimination against black customers.

Approximately 200 of the 2,500 Secret Service agents are black. Although several top Secret Service officials are black, the complaint alleges that many qualified black agents still are blocked from promotions.