Published August 10, 2012
A longtime special agent in the Department of Homeland Security has filed a salacious discrimination lawsuit, saying he was shoved aside in favor of a woman with ties to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano -- who the suit claims presided over a female "frat-house"-style department that routinely humiliated male staffers.
The lawsuit, filed in May by James T. Hayes Jr., focuses on two Napolitano appointees, Suzanne Barr and Dora Schriro, who joined DHS in February 2009, five months after Hayes was promoted to director of ICE Detention and Removal Operations.
Hayes claims Schriro, who was brought on as a special adviser to Napolitano, was not qualified for the job because she lacked law enforcement experience. Hayes maintained Schriro enjoyed a “long-standing relationship” with Napolitano and soon began assuming his duties.
Hayes was pushed aside "because of this relationship (with Napolitano) and because he was not female," the suit says.
Schriro previously led the Arizona and Missouri corrections departments. She has since left DHS and now serves as commissioner for the New York City Department of Correction.
The lawsuit also alleges that Barr cultivated a "frat-house type atmosphere" at DHS that "is targeted to humiliate and intimidate male employees."
In one instance, the suit alleges, Barr "moved the entire contents of the offices of three male employees" to the men's bathroom. It also claims she repeatedly used "sexually offensive behavior" -- like "screaming" about an explicit sexual act at a male employee in his hotel room and "covertly" taking a male agent's Blackberry and sending a message to his female supervisor that he "had a crush" on her and "fantasized about her."
The suit also claims Barr held conference calls to discuss excuses for firing Hayes, after Schriro assumed some of his responsibilities. Hayes was later removed from his Washington ICE job and assigned to the New York office. Subsequently, Hayes filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Office -- the suit alleges the department then retaliated against him. This alleged retaliation is the crux of the lawsuit.
After the suit was first reported by blogger Debbie Schlussel, DHS issued a statement knocking down the claims.
"ICE doesn't comment on unfounded claims and will respond to Mr. Hayes' allegations as appropriate through the judicial system," a DHS spokesman said.
A representative for Schriro also issued a statement saying her "selection and service at DHS were based on the merits. Any suggestion to the contrary is false."
Hayes has held a number of high-ranking assignments at DHS, including his current post as special agent in charge of New York City ICE.
But Hayes lawyer Morris Fischer told FoxNews.com his client considered the transfer to New York to be a demotion. He also called the department's public response Friday to the allegations "offensive."
"The only thing unfounded in this case were the six unfounded misconduct investigations the secretary's staff subjected my client to after he first complained about the discriminatory work environment at ICE," Fischer said.
The suit says that in late 2009, DHS launched or re-opened at least six different misconduct probes against him. Those probes were concluded with a finding they were "without merit," the suit said.
"On information and belief, these investigations were initiated by the agency in order to intimidate the plaintiff," the suit said.
Hayes is seeking more than $330,000 in damages.
Barr is still Napolitano's chief of staff for ICE.
Fox News' Mike Levine and FoxNews.com's Joshua Rhett Miller contributed to this report.