The EEOC has clarified what type of contact with an EEO counselor is necessary to satisfy the employee’s obligation of initiating EEO counseling within 45 days of a discriminatory event or discovery of such an event. In Daniel Gonzales v. Dept. of the Navy, 103 FEOR 326 (April 3, 2003), the complainant alleged that his failure to be selected for a position was the product of national origin discrimination. On the 45th day after notice of nonselection, the complainant sent a letter to the agency’s EEO office wherein he expressed his desire for a meeting with an EEO counselor. The EEOC found that this letter was insufficient to establish timely EEO contact for two reasons: First, the letter was insufficient because the complainant did not express his desire to file a complaint about the nonselection; it merely expressed a request to meet with the EEO counselor. Second, there was no evidence that the letter was actually received by someone in the agency logically connected with the EEO process.
There are three tips employees should learn from this case: 1) a request for EEO counseling should state the intent to pursue an EEO complaint and specifically identify the personnel action (e.g. denial of leave, denial of promotion, suspension, harassment) that was discriminatory; 2) there should be a record of receipt by the EEO office or counselor to prove the request was submitted; and 3) do NOT wait until the 45th day to request counseling, in cases there is a problem with the request that needs to be cured.
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