239. Memorandum From the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Personnel (Barnes) to the Under Secretary of State for Management (Read)1


  • Women’s Class Action Suit: Status Report

At the present stage of the suit’s progress, the Department’s defense appears to be in good shape. It is now the plaintiffs who are slow in meeting obligations. They have yet to respond to the interrogatories submitted to them, whereas we have completed response to the massive demands of their first set of interrogatories.

We have just received a second batch of 23 interrogatories concerning implementation of EEO action plans, the selection boards and rating procedures, the class-level designation of embassies as well as questions regarding our investigations of the specific complaints of the named plaintiffs, defense witnesses, and exhibits.

Our expert witness, Seymour Wolfbein of Temple University, has begun examining the wealth of data compiled by the Department in response to the first 167 interrogatories. The results in many areas show the Department in a favorable light. For example, during the period since 1971, when the complaint begins, the percentage of women FSO’s has more than doubled, from 5 percent to more than 11 percent. They [Page 956] have generally been promoted as rapidly as men, and they have spent an average time in class shorter than their male counterparts. Out of 111 FSO’s selected out for time in class during the period, only one was a woman. In addition women more consistently than men are granted their preferences as to cone and geographic area of assignment.

On the Foreign Service written exam, women have not performed as well as men, particularly on the General Background and Functional Field portions of the test. Their different academic preparation explains much of the difference. On the oral exam, where evidence of bias would be expected to surface, the pass rates of men and women, year by year, are comparable. Thus a preliminary reading of our responses to plaintiffs’ interrogatories is quite favorable to our defense.

Our attorney Diane Sullivan hopes to begin taking depositions from the named plaintiffs by April or May. She would like to communicate with members of the class represented by the plaintiffs before then, but there is an impasse over the terms of the proposed announcement to the class. Judge Smith may have to make a ruling on that issue so that the required announcement can go to all women FSO’s describing the case in factual terms and offering them the option of remaining associated with the class action or of withdrawing individually from it. The question of the method of giving notice to the members of the class defined as “future female Foreign Service Officers” and “present and future applicants” has not been settled, nor have the rules governing communication with class members in preparation of our defense been established.

Judge Smith is likely to encourage the two parties to make another attempt to settle without going to trial, but the odds are that the case will be tried before the end of 1980.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Under Secretary for Management (M), 1980, Box 2, Chron March 1–7, 1980. No classification marking. Drafted by Lesser and J. Albrecht (PER/MGT); cleared by Gershenson and Fuller.