The State Department admits it discriminated against women and says it is suspending the Foreign Service examination this year as part of its court-ordered effort to eliminate bias, a published report says.

The admission to female officials arose from a suit filed in 1976 by Alison Palmer, a now-retired Foreign Serivce officer who claimed the department discriminated against women in hiring and promotion, The Washington Post reported Thursday.The department made its admission in a detailed notice sent this week to diplomatic stations worldwide and posted at State Department headquarters. The notice says about 600 women who worked for the State Department between 1976 and 1985 may be eligible for court-ordered relief.

Department officials acknowledged Wednesday night that the 1989 Foreign Service examination has been canceled. The test has been challenged because men pass the general background section at twice the rate of women.

The State Department had won the Palmer lawsuit in a lower court but was reversed three months ago by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The State Department is planning to appeal that decision, the Post said.

Men got better career assignments and were generally given more high-profile opportunities to advance their careers, according to the notices cited by the Post.