In 2015, Rochelle Cleveland applied to be a Unit Chief within her division at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This was not her first time applying for a promotion within the Agency. The last time she applied, she was passed over for a White woman with less experience. There were no male applicants at that time.
Though disappointed, Ms. Cleveland did not let this stop her from seeking a different promotion. She applied for a Unit Chief position that opened in her section in 2015. The incumbent was a male and the position had been vacant for several years. When Ms. Cleveland applied for the position, there were two other applicants—one male and one female. After a very unorthodox interview and selection process, the Agency selected the male applicant although he had lower ratings on his performance evaluations and demonstrably less experience than Ms. Cleveland.
In fact, he was so unqualified to serve as Unit Chief that he stepped down within the first year of his promotion. A jilted Ms. Cleveland filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that she was non-selected for the position on the basis of her gender. After a stressful evidentiary hearing, where Ms. Cleveland put on evidence that consisted of data on the hiring practices of her section of the DEA which favored males in higher-ranking positions, side-by-side comparisons of her and the selectee’s application, their performance evaluations, and prior feedback from her superiors, an Administrative Judge found that the Agency discriminated against Ms. Cleveland.
In a SCATHING order against the Agency, the Administrative Judge ordered that the Agency do the following:
- Pay Ms. Cleveland backpay and all taxes due on that amount
- Pay her attorney’s fees
- Reinstate Ms. Cleveland
- Attend the necessary diversity and inclusion training