Filing Discrimination Claims With Federal Sector EEO for Federal Government
With their proximity to the agencies of the United States government, many workers in Northern Virginia, D.C. and Maryland work for the federal government. Below is a guide to procedures for federal government employees to follow when filing complaints of employment discrimination, adapted from 29 C.F.R. 1614Stage One: EEO Counseling
The first step in the complaint process is EEO counseling. A federal government employee or applicant for employment who believes he or she has been the victim of discrimination must contact an EEO counselor within 45 calendar days of the date of the allegedly discriminatory event. An extension for this deadline is granted only in limited circumstances, such as when discrimination is continuing in nature or the worker faced severe health problems that interfered with filing a complaint.
The EEO counselor will advise a claimant that he or she has the choice between traditional EEO counseling or participation in alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”). Counseling traditionally involves a meeting between the complainant and agency officials to gather basic facts regarding the claim and to determine if the case can be settled. EEO counseling is supposed to last 30 calendar days from the date of the claimant’s first contact with the office, but often goes longer. If an individual chooses ADR, processing will last 90 days.
Please be advised that the complaint must include all relief the worker is seeking and all of the possible claims he or she may wish to pursue. If these are not included, the worker may waive his or her right to assert them later.Stage 2 – Filing the Complaint
After the counseling stage is completed, the EEO counselor will send a letter to the claimant informing him or her of the right to file a formal discrimination complaint, typically called a “notice of final interview.” It is important to note that a claimant only has 15 calendar days from the date he/she obtains that notice to file a formal complaint.
The following information must be included in the complaint: the identity of the claimant and the federal agency worked for; a general description of the action(s) that form the basis of the complaint; the address and telephone number of the claimant or claimant’s attorney; and the signature of the claimant or claimant’s attorney.Stage 3 – The Investigation
After the claimant files his or her formal complaint of discrimination with the EEO, the agency will begin the investigation process. This should take place within 180 days of the date of filing. If the original complaint is amended, the investigation must be completed either within 180 calendar days of the date of the last amendment or 360 calendar days from the fate of the filing of the original complaint, whichever comes first. The EEO office can request a 90-day extension to continue and complete its investigation but the claimant is not obligated to agree to any extensions.Stage 4 – Agency Decision/EEOC Hearing/Filing Suit in Court
After the investigation process is complete, a claimant can: (1) request that the agency issue a decision based on the merits of the complaint; (2) request a hearing by an EEOC administrative judge; or (3) file suit in U.S. District Court.
At any time after 180 days from the filing of a formal discrimination complaint, the claimant may file suit in an appropriate federal District Court or request a hearing by an EEOC administrative judge. In other words, once this time has lapsed, a claimant does not have to wait for the agency to complete its investigation before it can request a hearing or file suit in court, nor must he or she obtain a “right to sue” letter. If, however, the EEO completes its investigation before the 180 calendar days have expired, it will provide a claimant of a notice of his or her rights. A claimant must request a hearing within 30 days of receiving this notice by sending the request to the appropriate office of the EEO and a copy to the discriminatory federal agency.
The maximum amount of compensatory damages recoverable for a claim of employment discrimination is $300,000. If you have been discriminated against in employment while applying to a job with or working for the federal government, the Erlich Law Office can help you. For a consultation, please contact our attorneys at (703) 791-9087 or email us.