The U.S. Marshals Service agreed to pay $15 million settlement and will amend its hiring and promotion processes to settle a lawsuit initially filed 30 years ago that alleged discrtimination against Black employees.

The class action alleged that the service discriminated against hundreds of African American deputy marshals and corrections officers in hirings, headquarters assignments and promotions since 1994, according to a summary from Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP, the employment law firm handling the case. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission approved the settlement, marking this case one of the longest-running racial discrimination class actions in U.S. history.

The settlement requires that the Marshals Service implement DEI and implicit bias training and change the hiring process to promote transparency and objectivity within the agency’s hiring, promotion and headquarters assignments processes.

“We’re really thrilled that we finally get to resolve this case and we think it’s a good resolution for our class members,” Christine Dunn, an attorney representative on the case, said to Federal Times. “And, you know, most importantly, I think, is that there will be changes at the Marshals Service, and that has power to positively impact future generations of deputy U.S. marshals.”

Dunn said the Marshals Service will have to give periodic updates on their progress so the law firm can be sure they are making the required changes listed in the settlement.

Class members on the case include 700 African American current and former deputy marshals who allegedly experienced racial discrimination in promotions and headquarters assignments and thousands of African Americans who were allegedly denied hire. Class members that will receive part of the settlement are those who submitted a claim form and were found eligible for monetary compensation.

“It’s been a really long road,” Dunn said. “This case has been going on for 30 years and it feels really wonderful to finally be able to get justice for our class members who have been fighting for a really long time.”

The Marshals Service has denied any wrongdoing on their part throughout the litigation process, according to a USMS press release.

Dunn said class members have already submitted claims for monetary compensation, but before the Marshals Service can release the money owed, those who objected to the settlement during the objection period can appeal within 30 days now that it was approved by the court. She said only a small number of class members objected to the settlement.

She said the objections or appeals would have to be “global,” meaning based on that the settlement itself was unfair, unreasonable or inadequate. For an appeal to be granted, it would depend on if it could be fixed or if it could blow up the settlement, Dunn said.

“I don’t think that an appeal will likely carry much weight, you know, the objections,” Dunn said. “The judge dealt with pretty extensively in her order and why she doesn’t believe they have any merit. So, I would hope that an appellate court would also agree with her on that.”

Dunn said the compensation received depends on everyone’s circumstances because some may have been passed up for more promotions than others, for example. The settlement will be disbursed in a pro rata format, which means a proportional allocation of the funds.

She said it was frustrating to see the delays in the case, especially since some class members passed along the way before able to see justice and receive their monetary compensation.

“That has been one of the hardest parts for me of this case is just seeing justice delayed and for so many people, they will ever get to experience the justice of this case,” Dunn said.

Cristina Stassis is an editorial fellow for Defense News and Military Times, where she covers stories surrounding the defense industry, national security, military/veteran affairs and more. She is currently studying journalism and mass communication and international affairs at the George Washington University.

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