A class-action lawsuit accusing the U.S. Customs Service of discriminating against its 1,800 Hispanic employees is taking some of its cues from a recently successful action against the FBI.

The class-action suit Wednesday by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund alleges that the Customs Service under Commissioner William von Raab has removed almost all Hispanics from key management posts and barred others from entering the executive ranks.MALDEF says the customs service "is employing an informal and unfairly discriminatory promotion system to circumvent the formal merit promotion system" at the expense of the Hispanics employed at the agency.

A federal judge in September ruled in favor of Hispanic FBI agents who alleged that the bureau promoted Hispanic agents too slowly.