Thirty-five current and retired FBI agents are suing the agency, saying they were illegally forced from their supervisory positions because of age, reports the Washington Post. The suit in federal court alleges that the FBI intentionally removed them as squad supervisors because they were all older than 40, and the bureau wanted to replace them with younger workers. At issue is a policy known as “up or out,” mandatory since 2004, under which squad supervisors in field offices can hold those jobs for only five years.
When the time limit expires, the supervisors are given a choice: transfer to FBI headquarters in Washington at the same salary, compete for a handful of promotions, take a demotion from a GS-14 to a GS-13 on the federal pay scale to remain in their own field office, or retire. FBI spokesman Michael Kortan said the “up-or-out” policy was designed to ease a bottleneck in middle management at the bureau. After Sept. 11, 2001, many new agents were entering field offices as well as new positions at headquarters in Washington. By encouraging supervisors to continue in their career paths, the policy created management opportunities for the newer agents and allowed the FBI to fill jobs at headquarters, he said. “By any measure, the program is a success,” Kortan said, adding that it enabled the FBI to fill critical positions while “strengthening the leadership ranks across the board for today and the future.” About 1,000 field supervisors have reached their “term limit” since 2004. Of those, about 51 percent either transferred to FBI headquarters or received a promotion, 27 percent took a demotion to remain in their field offices, 20 percent retired and a few quit because they were not eligible for retirement.