Former Department of Justice Claims She Was Discriminated Against Because She Was ‘Attractive’
A former employee of the FBI’s field office in New Mexico is suing the Department of Justice for discrimination and harassment, saying several co-workers were “jealous of her appearance and Latin singing career.”
Erika Bonilla, 38, a professional singer and former employee of the FBI, at the field office in Albuquerque, N.M., was promoted in 2007 to an Administrative Specialist, a position that entailed human resources management, according to the lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court in New Mexico.
Bonilla’s suit, filed on June 18, names Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice, which oversees the Federal Bureau of Investigation, reported ABC News Thursday.
The suit states she “was targeted, harassed and retaliated against because she is an attractive Hispanic female with a career in Latin music,” according the ABC.
Bonilla has released an album and signed a recording contract for a second album and has performed at various FBIHQ functions, which the “FBI is well aware of, and allows her to work as a singer,” the suit states.
Bonilla is requesting unspecified damages, back pay, and other equitable relief for discrimination on the basis of race and gender. She says she should be protected from retaliation for protected activity under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
A spokesman for the FBI declined to comment and referred ABC News to the Justice Department. A spokesman for the Department of Justice declined to comment on ongoing litigation.
“Ms. Bonilla indicated this harassment included maliciously false rumors, disparate treatment and frivolous complaints that caused her anguish and lost pay,” said Monnica Garcia, Bonilla’s attorney. “This lawsuit was brought because, despite her repeated complaints to management, the agency failed to address the hostile work environment. Ms. Bonilla hopes this lawsuit will not only compensate her for her damages, but also prevent future acts of discrimination and retaliation.”
Bonilla claims her co-workers spread malicious gossip in the office about her and would not work with her in a “non-hostile manner.”
According to the lawsuit, one employee “made comments about how they needed to ‘get rid of Erika’,” reported ABC.
Another co-worker “falsely stated that the reason the position was given to [Bonilla] was because [she] had sexual relations with executive management in the Albuquerque Office,” according to the suit.
Bonilla said her supervisors “retaliated against her by giving her unwarranted lower performance rating,” and she was “continuously told she was going to get a poor rating” by one supervisor, according to the lawsuit.
Bonilla “has since relocated to another office in California because of harassment and has since received good ratings at her new location, even obtaining an award,” the suit states.
But “the harassment caused [her] a great deal of unnecessary stress for years,” the suite states. She “also started having high blood pressure, which is a direct result of the work stress.”