FEDweek

Federal Legal Corner: EEO Procedures and Deadlines

By the attorneys of Passman & Kaplan, a law firm specializing in federal civil service law, including sexual harassment, discrimination, security clearances, grievances, unfair labor practices, wrongful discharge, employment contracts and employee benefits. For more information about Passman & Kaplan, visit http://www.passmanandkaplan.com.

As a federal government employee, you have greater protections against discrimination than private sector employees. Federal employees are also protected against discrimination due to race, sex, national origin, color, religion, age, physical handicap or mental disability, unequal pay, or retaliation. However, as a federal employee, you have special administrative processes for handling your complaint of discrimination, including a hearing before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If you prevail in your case, you are entitled to “make-whole” relief, including back pay with interest, benefits, correction of personnel records, compensatory damages for pain and suffering up to $300,000, and reasonable attorney fees where represented by counsel, except for administrative cases alleging only age discrimination.

All complainants must contact an agency EEO counselor within 45 days after becoming aware of the discriminatory action with several exceptions. If you do not know of an available EEO counselor, be sure to contact the EEO office right away and request one. The EEO counselor has 30 days to complete counseling and may request additional time up to 90 days. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) may be offered in lieu of EEO counseling. If your case is not settled during counseling or ADR, you have the right to file a formal EEO complaint with the agency within 15 calendar days of receipt of your notice of the right to file. The agency then has 180 days to accept and/or reject the issues raised and to investigate the accepted issues. Within 30 days after receipt of the EEO investigation or after 180 days, you have the right to request an EEOC hearing, or after 180 days to file a complaint in the appropriate U.S. District Court. However, if you elect the EEOC process, you still have the right to file in district court if you do not prevail. Following an initial decision by an EEOC administrative judge, you have the right to appeal to the EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations, which will issue a final administrative decision, subject to a limited right to request reconsideration.