New Mexico Ex-FBI Employee Says Co-Workers Were 'Jealous' of Her, Sues Employer

PHOTO: Erika Bonilla, a former employee at the FBIs field office in New Mexico, is suing the Department of Justice for discrimination and harassment.
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Erika Bonilla, a professional singer and former FBI employee in New Mexico, is suing the FBI for harassment and discrimination, saying several co-workers were "jealous of her appearance and Latin singing career."

Bonilla, 38, began working at the FBI field office in Albuquerque, N.M., in December 2002. In the summer of 2007, Bonilla was promoted to an Administrative Specialist, "which entailed human resources management, language testing, applicant testing and recruiting matters," 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.

The suit states she "was targeted, harassed and retaliated against because she is an attractive Hispanic female with a career in Latin music."

Bonilla is a professional Latin music singer, has released an album and signed a recording contract for a second album.

"She has performed at various FBIHQ functions," which the "FBI is well aware of, and allows her to work as a singer," the suit states.

The lawsuit was brought "to prevent [the FBI] from maintaining a policy" of discriminating against Bonilla, who now lives in California. She 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. Charles Miller, a spokesman for the 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 "would not train [her] or work with her in a non-hostile manner, and they also spread malicious gossip in the office" that she "only obtained her position because of her appearance" over another employee.

"After obtaining the new position, [Bonilla] was harassed by a handful of employees in the office, who thought that Support Services Technician (SST) Maria Grossetete should have received the position," the suit states.

According to the lawsuit, one employee "made comments about how they needed to 'get rid of Erika'."

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.

The FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility initiated an investigation against one co-worker for harassing Bonilla after which the harassment allegations against him were substantiated, the suit states.

But during the investigation, Bonilla "was inappropriately questioned, in an accusatory fashion, whether she had engaged in sexual relations with members of the executive management in exchange for promotion."

"Gossip was spread in the office that [Bonilla] was not paying her taxes on income from singing," she said in the suit. In addition, Bonilla claims employees sifted through her personal belongings including her purse and notebook.

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