Ten Puerto Rican agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration have filed suit against their employer, claiming they receive less pay and more dangerous assignments than agents hired in the U.S. and sent to the island.
The agents, who were hired in Puerto Rico and have chosen to remain in the U.S. island territory, were reluctant to file suit against the DEA but felt unfairly deprived of recruitment bonuses and incentive pay given to agents hired on the U.S. mainland, their attorney Bamily Lopez Ortiz, said Monday.
Agents who are hired in the U.S. and agree to work in Puerto Rico can receive bonuses equal to 25 percent of their pay because it's considered a high-intensity drug trafficking area, Lopez said. She said some of the Puerto Rican agents may be owed more than $100,000 in lost pay and damages.
Puerto Rican agents more often conduct dangerous field assignments because they have local experience that the U.S. agents lack, she said.
"It is disparate pay and disparate treatment," said Lopez, who filed the suit in federal court in San Juan.
The DEA said in a statement that its officials cannot discuss the suit because it is a pending legal matter but that the agency's pay policies comply with U.S. government regulations.
"The Drug Enforcement Administration is a global organization, and as such, recruits and hires a diverse work force trained to perform the most dangerous assignments world-wide," the statement said.