If you are a federal employee, you probably have relatives and friends who work in the private sector and can only wish that they had as cushy a job as you have. To get your job, you had to go through a long application process and background check, and the resume you submitted was about ten times as long as what private sector employers expect, but now that you are here, you have more job security than most people have, as well as generous benefits in the form of health insurance and retirement savings. You also have lifelong job security, unless your position is one where employee turnover is tied to changes in the presidential administration. This is not to say that things are always rosy at federal jobs, however. The legal protections for workers are the same regardless of whether your employer is a government entity or a private business, and there are plenty of cases where federal employers have retaliated against employees for engaging in legally protected activities, such as reporting misconduct by their employers, filing workers’ compensation claims, requesting medical leave or disability accommodations, and complaining about discrimination in the workplace. The Houston federal employees lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you resolve a dispute with your federal sector employer.
Employment Discrimination and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on protected characteristics, such as race, religion, sex, marital status, age, pregnancy, national origin, and disability. The laws that define these protections include the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, among others. Country of citizenship is also a protected characteristic, which means that as long as a job applicant has legal authorization to work in the United States, employers cannot give preferential treatment to U.S. citizens over non-citizen permanent residents and holders of other types of employment-enabled visas. Some federal jobs are an exception because they are open only to United States citizens. These jobs cannot, however, discriminate against naturalized citizens and give U.S.-born citizens preference over them. President of the United States is the only job title reserved for people born in the United States.
Refusal to hire people with a certain protected characteristic is only one of the many manifestations of employment discrimination. Harassment, unfairly negative performance reviews, undesired reassignment of job duties, work schedule, or work location, denial of promotions or raises, and termination of employment. In employment discrimination claims, the burden of proof rests on the employee to demonstrate that one of the aforementioned adverse actions took place because of the employee’s protected characteristic, as opposed to merely coexisting with it. For example, if you applied for a promotion but did not get it, this by itself does not indicate that your employer discriminated against you because you are a naturalized U.S. citizen. If all of the coworkers who have gotten promoted since you have worked at your job are U.S. born, while you and other naturalized citizens have gotten their applications denied, you have a much stronger claim.
The law requires you to act quickly when pursuing an employment discrimination claim. You must notify the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 45 days of the discriminatory action (for example, the denial of a promotion, an unfair performance review, or an insulting remark by a supervisor about your race, sex, or other protected characteristic). During the pre-complaint phase, you meet with an EEOC counselor and decide whether to pursue a formal complaint. If you decide to file a formal complaint, the EEOC conducts an investigation into discrimination at your workplace. After the investigation, an Administrative Law Judge from the EEOC holds a hearing at which you and your employer present your respective sides of the story. If you and your employer still cannot resolve the dispute by the end of the hearing, then you can file a discrimination lawsuit in court.
You have no legal obligation to hire a lawyer to represent you in a discrimination claim. You have the right to represent yourself in your legal action just as you would in small claims court, a divorce case, or probate. Despite this, the earlier you contact an employment lawyer about discrimination at your workplace, the more likely you are to get a satisfactory outcome from your case.
The Merit Systems Protection Board
Some federal employees have Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) rights. Employees in this category can take up their claims about discrimination and other forms of mistreatment by their employers with the MSPB instead of going straight to the EEOC or another relevant entity. Military veterans get MSPB rights after they have worked for the same civilian federal employer for a year. Some employees of the U.S. Postal Service have MSPB rights, as do competitive service employees and excepted service employees.
The Office of Personnel Management
In private sector jobs, the first place you go to report discrimination by one of your work supervisors is your company’s human resources office. Federal employees can go to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which deals with human resources issues for many federal entities. This is just part of the “alphabet soup” of government offices with which federal employees must deal. An employment lawyer can help you navigate the process.
Employment Lawyers are Not Just for Federal Employees
Employment discrimination can happen to anyone, whether you work for the public sector or the private sector. Intimidation and cover-ups are common tactics by employers to make it harder for employees to exercise their right to speak up about discrimination. You have the right to hire an employment lawyer to represent you in a workplace discrimination claim, no matter where you work.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Employment Disputes in Federal Jobs
The Houston employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you resolve disputes related to your job in the federal sector. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Houston, Texas, to set up a consultation.