Federal employees are protected by the law from discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability and/or prior EEO activity. If you’ve faced discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation on any of those bases from a federal agency employer, it is important to seek justice by enforcing your right to file an Equal Employment Office (EEO) complaint.
Step 1: Seek an EEO Counselor
You should contact an EEO Counselor at the agency you work for. This must be done within 45 calendar days from the date of when you experienced discrimination. An EEO Counselor will give you the option of participating in EEO counseling or an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program. We always recommend that federal employees request that their informal EEO complaint be processed through their agency’s ADR program.
If the dispute is not settled through either of these methods, you can then file a formal complaint against the agency. This must be filed with the agency’s EEO office within 15 calendar days of receiving the notice of right to file a formal EEO complaint from your EEO Counselor.
Step 2: Filing a Formal Complaint
After you file a formal complaint with the agency, they will review the case and determine whether or not it should be accepted for investigation or dismissed for procedural reasons, like filing the claim too late.
If the complaint is not dismissed, the agency will then launch an investigation that they must complete within 180 calendar days from the date the complaint was filed or last amended. Once the investigation is concluded, the agency will issue a Report of Investigation (ROI) and give you notice that you then have two options.
The agency will give you the following choices:
Request a hearing before an EEOC Administrative Judge, which we always recommend that federal employees choose; or
Ask the agency to issue a decision as to whether or not discrimination occurred
Also, any time a formal EEO complaint has been pending for 180 calendar days, the employee may opt-out of the administrative EEO process and file a civil action in U.S. District Court. However, we do not recommend that federal employees file a court civil action until they first have received a final decision from the EEOC after a hearing.
Step 3: Decide How to Proceed
Depending on which choice you make, there are a few different outcomes.
If you do ask the agency to issue a decision, and they find no discrimination, you can appeal the decision to the EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations or challenge it in federal district court.
Requesting a Hearing
On the other hand, if you request an EEOC hearing, you need to follow specific steps. The request must be made in writing or through the EEOC Public Portal website. The EEOC Administrative Judge will afford you discovery rights, conduct the hearing, make a decision, and then order relief if discrimination is found.
After the agency receives the Judge’s decision, they will issue a “final order” stating if the agency agrees with the Judge and if they will grant the ordered relief. This must be issued by the agency within 40 calendar days.
Step 4: Appealing the Decision
You have the right to file an appeal of the agency’s final order to the EEOC Office of Federal Operations if you disagree with it. If you choose to do so, it must be filed no later than 30 calendar days after receiving the order. If an appeal is not successful, you can file a lawsuit in district court. This route should only be taken as the last resort.
Step 5: Contact a Federal Employment Law Firm
To process an EEO complaint, federal employees have strict guidelines and deadlines they must follow. Working with an attorney at The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, PLLC, can guide you through the steps and seek justice and accountability from your Agency’s unjust treatment. At The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, PLLC, we are advocates for federal employees in EEO complaints.
Contact us today at (202) 350-3881 if you have been discriminated against or harassed by your federal agency.