Discrimination in the federal workplace is an unfortunate reality of employment. Yet discrimination based on personal characteristics like sex, gender, race, color, age, and religion is against the law.
Illegal discrimination encompasses actions that affect all aspects of federal employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, compensation, benefits, workplace treatment, and discipline.
If you’ve been the victim of unlawful discrimination as the result of management’s actions or inactions, you have the right to file a complaint with your agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office.
Read on to learn about the process of filing a charge of discrimination from an EEOC attorney who frequently takes on discrimination cases.
A good first step as a federal employee filing an EEO complaint of discrimination is to search for “federal employee EEO attorney” or similar online.
Select a labor lawyer who is familiar with federal-sector EEO discrimination law and knows how to practice in front of the EEOC. Most employment attorneys do not handle federal-sector EEO complaints.
It often makes sense to look for attorneys in your area. However, modern technology and federal employment make it easy to choose attorneys who are based in other states.
In fact, there are so few attorneys focusing in this small niche that odds are you would not find one locally.
Meeting with an EEOC Attorney
Next comes the initial consultation. During this meeting, the EEO attorney will ask questions about your case.
The EEO lawyer will also discuss their fees and what you might stand to gain if you are successful in a lawsuit. Settlement is a big topic of conversation as well, to determine what your ideal remedies may be.
The Financial Picture
The initial consultation should include a discussion of your potential damages. The EEOC awards several forms of damages to successful plaintiffs.
One type is called compensatory damages. An EEOC administrative judge awards compensatory damages in an attempt to make a plaintiff who has faced discrimination whole.
For example, the EEOC recently awarded $165,000 in compensatory damages to a United States Postal Service (USPS) employee who dealt with illegal discrimination. The USPS was also recently involved in an EEOC-approved settlement with another one of their employees.
In especially egregious cases of discrimination, the EEOC may award even higher damages.
As you can imagine, these damages serve to dissuade an agency from continuing their discriminatory behavior, and may even lead to the removal or disciplining of responsible management officials (RMOs).
What Happens After You File a Charge of Discrimination
After you have retained an attorney and contacted your agency’s EEO office, the EEO office will initiate the informal EEO complaint stage to try to resolve the case at the lowest level.
If unsuccessful, you can then go on to file a formal complaint with your agency. This formal complaint includes an investigation into the claims in the complaint, and involves the giving of sworn testimony to an investigator.
At the end of this formal stage, you will get a Report of Investigation (ROI) and a notice of a right to request an EEOC hearing or Final Agency Decision (FAD).
Once you file for a hearing, the case will move out of your agency and into the jurisdiction of the EEOC and an administrative judge (AJ). The AJ will, among other things, set a date for a hearing.
Sometimes, your attorney can draft a special pleading which may result in winning your case without even going to a hearing. At other times, your attorney will negotiate a settlement with your employer to resolve the case.
If neither of these outcomes occurs, your case will go to a hearing. There, an EEOC administrative judge will hear evidence from you and your employer to decide whether you suffered discrimination.
If you are successful at the hearing, the EEOC judge may choose to award you compensatory damages and other relief. Even if you are not successful at your hearing, however, you can petition the EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations (OFO) with a request for appeal.
This request for appeal essentially asks a panel of judges to give your case a second review and overturn a negative decision.
It is generally filed if you suspect that the judge improperly evaluated the facts of the case or the law. If the OFO appeal is unsuccessful, you may be able to appeal your case further.
Do You Need a Lawyer Who Is Familiar with the EEOC and Discrimination Cases?
Now that you know more about the process of filing a charge of discrimination, you can begin your search for a qualified federal-sector EEOC attorney.
Keep in mind that not all attorneys are the same. Some are experienced and others are fresh out of law school.
Even many experienced attorneys may not understand or be very familiar with the EEOC and federal employment discrimination. Consequently, you need to pick a law firm which has practiced many times in front of the EEOC.
At the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC., we focus exclusively on representing federal employees and helping them stand up for their rights.
We have represented and won countless cases of discrimination for our clients over the years so contact us, your initial consultation is free.
You have nothing to lose by reaching out and letting us review your case. Let us fight for you today!