Attorney General William Barr has ordered the FBI and the Bureau of Prisons to investigate allegations of discrimination against LGBTQ employees, he said in a letter released Friday.
The announcement came in response to concerns from DOJ Pride, a group that represents thousands of LGBTQ employees at the Justice Department and its component agencies.
The group's board of directors sent a letter to Barr last week that asked him to sign an equal employment opportunity statement and raised concerns from a survey of its members.
The concerns included allegations that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender agents at the FBI academy face discrimination and different evaluation standards, as well as gay agents being dismissed from the academy "because they are not 'bro-y' or masculine enough."
Members said it is hard for gay men and transgender employees to work at the Bureau of Prisons and the agency doesn't attract or retain them. Others were concerned the Justice Department is not as much of a "welcoming, inclusive environment" for LGBTQ employees as it once was, the letter said.
"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," the board members said.
In a letter to the group, Barr said he was "troubled by the concerns you raised about low morale and in particular about discrimination against LGBTQ employees."
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The attorney general ordered the FBI and prisons bureau to investigate and address the discrimination allegations and "prevent it going forward," he said.
Barr also formally signed an equal employment opportunity policy — which is required by law — attesting that Justice Department employees or job applicants can't be fired or denied employment because of their race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or other factors.
The Bureau of Prisons said in a statement that it does not tolerate discrimination and 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."
The FBI said it was committed to fostering diversity in inclusion and said the bureau 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 agency said in a statement.