Federal anti-discrimination laws protect federal workers and applicants against discrimination based on their race, religion, sex, color, age, national origin, genetic information, and disability. Federal workers are also protected from retaliation by their employers for filing discrimination complaints or cooperating with an investigation of someone else’s discrimination complaint. Some other federal regulations and laws are not enforced by the EEOC that protect federal workers against discrimination based on their parental status, marital status, and political affiliation. If you are a federal worker who has faced illegal discrimination at work, the attorneys at Swartz Swidler can guide you through the complaint process with the EEOC. Federal workers who have been discriminated against by a federal agency have a right to file a discrimination charge with the EEOC. The agency for which you work should have information posted about how to contact the equal employment opportunity office for your agency. Here is an overview of the complaint process.
Contact an equal employment opportunity counselor
The first step that you must take is to contact the federal agency’s EEO counselor. You must contact the counselor within 45 days of when the discrimination happened. Normally, an EEO counselor will allow you to choose to participate in counseling or mediation. If your dispute with your employer is not resolved through either of these options, you will be allowed to file a formal discrimination charge with the equal employment opportunity office with your agency. This must be filed no later than 15 days after you receive the notice from the counselor that tells you how to file your complaint.
After you file a formal complaint
After you have followed the EEO counselor’s instructions for filing a formal complaint and have submitted it, your complaint will be reviewed by the EEO office at your agency. It will decide whether your complaint should be dismissed or investigated. If you file your complaint too late, it may be dismissed. If your complaint is not dismissed, the agency will have 180 days to conduct an investigation. The 180 days starts from the filing date of your complaint. Once the agency is finished with its investigation, ti will send you a notice that will direct you to request a hearing before an administrative law judge or to request the agency to issue its decision about whether the alleged discrimination happened.
If you ask the agency to issue a decision and it finds that no discrimination has occurred, you can appeal the decision by filing a complaint with the EEOC or in federal court. If you choose to request a hearing before an administrative law judge, your request must be made in writing or through the EEOC’s public portal. The public portal allows you to submit your hearing request. The hearing will be conducted by an administrative judge with the EEOC. The judge will make a decision and order relief if he or she finds that discrimination occurred.
After the agency receives the judge’s decision, it will issue a final order within 40 days. This order will explain whether the agency agrees with the judge. If the agency disagrees, you can file an appeal to the EEOC or a civil action in federal court. The final order will include information about the deadlines for filing a civil action or an appeal.
Appealing the agency’s order
If you want to appeal the agency’s final order, you can do so by filing it with the EEOC. Your appeal must be filed within 30 days after you are sent the final order. Your appeal can be filed with the public portal, which also allows you to upload supporting documents. Once your documents are received, appellate attorneys at the EEOC will review your file. Your file will include the investigation by the agency, the administrative judge’s decision, the transcript of your hearing, and any statements.
If you disagree with the decision that is made on your appeal, you can request a reconsideration. This will only be granted if you can demonstrate that there was a mistake about the law as it applies to the facts in your case. A request for reconsideration must be requested no more than 30 days after the decision about your appeal is sent to you. The federal agency also has a right to ask for a reconsideration of the EEOC’s decision on your appeal. Once the EEOC decides on a request for reconsideration, its decision will be final.
Filing a lawsuit
You cannot file a lawsuit against the federal agency before going through the administrative process. However, you may file a complaint in court in the following situations:
- If the agency does not decide your complaint within 180 days of when you filed it
- Once 90 days have elapsed after the date of the agency’s decision if no appeal has been filed
- If the EEOC does not issue a decision within 180 days of when you filed an appeal
- Within 90 days after you receive the decision on your appeal from the EEOC
Get help from the attorneys at Swartz Swidler
If you have been discriminated against while working for or applying to a federal agency based on your protected status, you have the legal right to file a complaint. However, you must carefully adhere to the administrative complaint process and all of the mandated deadlines. An attorney at Swartz Swidler can help you to navigate through the process. Contact us today by calling us at 856.658.7420 or by filling out our online contact form.