If you are an employee or applicant of a federal agency and believe that you have suffered discrimination on any of several grounds, you have the right to file an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint with your agency. The federal sector employment law attorneys of HKM advise and represent government workers in discrimination cases. Contact an experienced lawyer to find out the best ways to engage the EEO process in your situation.
Protecting Federal Government Employees from Workplace Discrimination
Federal employees are protected from discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability. Workplace discrimination can take the form of termination, suspension, discipline, transfer, demotion, denial of promotion, or other adverse employment action. Federal workers are also protected from retaliation for complaining about discrimination, supporting another employee’s discrimination claim, or cooperating with an investigation into discriminatory practices at the agency.
Understanding the EEO Complaint and Hearing Process
Before initiating a discrimination complaint against a government employer, you should understand the EEO complaint process, as it is different for federal sector employees. The first step is to contact your agency’s EEO counselor within 45 days of the discriminatory action. You must initiate this process with the 45 time limit, or there is a possibility that your claim will be time-barred. The EEO counselor will listen to your story, discuss your rights and responsibilities, and try to solve the problem through counseling or alternative dispute resolution procedures.
If these approaches fail to resolve your situation, the EEO counselor will explain your right to file a formal complaint of discrimination. The EEO counselor must provide you with written notice of your right to pursue your claim further. If you want to proceed with your discrimination claim, you must do so within 15 days of receiving the written Notice of Right to File a Formal Complaint.
Formal discrimination complaints are filed with the EEO office of the employer agency. The Notice of Right to File a Formal Complaint will contain instructions on how and where to submit your complaint, and it is important to closely follow these instructions Your complaint can be rejected on various grounds — most commonly, untimeliness. If your complaint is accepted, then a 180-day investigation process begins.
During the investigative phase, an EEO investigator will gather evidence related to your claim, including the conducting of witness interviews.. At the end of that process, you will be given a copy of the Report of Investigation and will be given two options: you can ask the employer agency to issue a decision on the basis of the evidence that has been gathered, or you can request a hearing before an EEOC administrative judge. If you are unsatisfied with the agency decision, or if the administrative judge denies your complaint, you can file an action in federal district court.
EEO discrimination complaints can be procedurally complicated and the deadlines are extremely tight. At HKM Employment Attorneys, we can guide you through each stage of the process, from pre-complaint counseling, through the “formal” investigative process to district court litigation and appeals. Our focus on federal sector employment law and our experience with EEOC procedures can make the decisive difference in your discrimination claim. Contact us to learn more about your rights as a federal employee.