Fedweek Legal

If you believe that you are a victim of discrimination and want to file a discrimination complaint, first you must contact your agency’s EEO counselor. Generally, the EEO counselor must be contacted with 45 days after you become aware of the discriminatory action. There are, however, a few instances when the time limits may be extended: 1) when there is a “continuing violation” involving incidents extending over a period of time, 2) you did not have a “reasonable suspicion” of discrimination until a later date, or 3) you were misinformed of the applicable requirements.

When contacting the EEO counselor, you should set forth the following in writing: 1) a summary of the claim of adverse discriminatory treatment (such as denial of promotion, disciplinary action, etc.), 2) the applicable basis or bases of discrimination (sex, race, age, religion, etc.), and 3) the relief requested. When making this initial EEO contact, be aware of EEO counselors who discourage complaints or provide erroneous advice.


After initiating EEO contact, the counselor has 30 days to complete counseling. The counselor may, however, request additional time, but you are not required to agree to an extension. During this counseling period, the counselor will normally meet with your supervisors and other employees to request additional information and attempt an informal settlement. Additionally, you may request Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), lasting up to 90 days, in an effort to settle your dispute without formal litigation.

When the EEO counselor has completed the informal investigation, or ADR is unsuccessful, you will receive a notice of the right to file a formal complaint. After receiving this notice, you have 15 days to file the complaint using the form provided by the agency. When drafting your complaint, you should summarize all the issues complained of, including the applicable dates and the relief requested, including compensatory damages for pain and suffering. Although your complaint may potentially be amended before hearing, it is advised that you carefully draft the issues in the formal complaint. After completing the form, it should be sent via certified mail to the agency’s EEO office, and a copy of the counselor’s report should be requested.

This information is provided by the attorneys at Passman & Kaplan, P.C., a law firm dedicated to the representation of federal employees worldwide. For more information on Passman & Kaplan, P.C., go to http://www.passmanandkaplan.com.

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