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Tyler: Minorities Face 'Concrete Ceiling' at Secret Service

Aired May 3, 2000 - 1:34 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Ten African-Americans have filed a discrimination suit against the Secret Service. They say that, as current and former Secret Service agents, they faced a racially- hostile work environment. The Secret Service is part of the Treasury Department, which was named in a similar suit in February. A lawyer for the plaintiffs noted that the agency's duties include protecting the president and vice president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN REMAIN, PLAINTIFFS' ATTORNEY: We have a situation where we have the most highly qualified, the best trained federal law enforcement agents, they are prepared to take a bullet for the president, they are prepared to take a bullet for the vice president. They are in a position where they are going to lay down their lives, and in exchange, they cannot get a simple promotion to a position that they deserve, that they have worked for, and that they are entitled to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: A Secret Service spokesman says the agency is surprised by the lawsuit. Cheryl Tyler is one of the former Secret Service agents involved in the case. She joins us from our Washington studio.

Thanks for being with us. Why did you leave your Secret Service job?

CHERYL TYLER, FMR. SECRET SERVICE AGENT: I realized that I had reached the glass ceiling, as I refer to it now as the concrete ceiling. I loved working for the Secret Service, I loved the job, I love the responsibility. I have a lot of respect for the organization and for the people that work there. But I realized that my potential and growth was not going to happen as king as I stayed there.

ALLEN: What position did you aspire to have? and did you ever file a complaint about the fact that you didn't think you were going to be able to achieve what you wanted?

TYLER: I applied for GS-14 positions, which is the first level management position, as many of the African-American agents have. How many times? I filed several times to -- I applied several times for those positions, but was never accepted in those positions for one reasons or another. Have I ever filed a lawsuit or an EEO complaint? No, I haven't. And that is just not something that an agent readily just goes and does. It was hard to come to this decision, it was very hard to do this.

ALLEN: Was it something that was so blatant in your opinion, the treatment of African-Americans, that this was something that was talked about, or shared amongst the African-American agents?

TYLER: Yes, for years. I came on as a special agent with the United States Secret Service in 1984. Some of the issues that were talked about in 1974 were still current and are still current to this day. So it's not something unknown. It's something that you dealt with as an African-American agent on the job, but it comes a time where it has to end. And we felt it needed to end.

ALLEN: And if what you say is true, and if what is stated in this lawsuit is true, why do you think the Secret Service hasn't changed it's ways over the years?

TYLER: The Secret Service has never been challenged this way. And I think it is time, and I know it is time, that they are challenged. They do need to make the changes. There are excellent, qualified African-Americans on the job that deserve to be in the management positions.

ALLEN: The Secret Service has said that it is surprised by this lawsuit. Do you know why that would be their reaction to this?

TYLER: I don't want to try to speak for the Secret Service.

ALLEN: Well, what about the fact that they say that they are pleased with their diversity program, pointed out they have 700 agents made up of women, and minority groups some 2500 agents.

TYLER: Of women and minority groups, that is very accurate, that is very true, but the fact still remains that in the year 2000 , when I left in September of 1999, I was the highest ranking African- American female agent that ever stayed with the Secret Service and still could not become a manager.

ALLEN: What do you want to gain from this lawsuit?

TYLER: I would like to sea the system changed for those who are still there.

ALLEN: Cheryl Tyler, thank you for being with us today.

TYLER: Thank you.

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