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Federal EEOC

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.   

Initial Research 

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!

FAQs

How Do You File an EEOC Complaint?

If you are a federal employee, ex-federal employee, or an applicant for federal employment, you can file a federal sector complaint with the EEOC.

The first step in this process is to contact an EEO counselor.

The counselor will then set up an intake interview where you will discuss your claim with them in more detail. 

At the very least, you need to have the following information for your claim:

  • A summary of the discriminatory actions or harassment that occurred, 
  • The EEO bases for the claim, and
  • The time or date that the illegal actions occurred.

It is critical to remember you only have 45 days after the date of discrimination to contact an EEO counselor.

If you wait past that time, your complaint will probably be dismissed for being untimely, unless your claim is a continuing violation such as an ongoing failure to accommodate an employee’s disabling medical condition.

After your intake interview, the EEO counselor will offer you the option to resolve your claims in a mediation session.

However, you don’t have to schedule a mediation session if you don’t want to.

Finally, the EEO counselor will also carry out some basic fact-finding regarding your claim.

How Do You File a Formal EEO Complaint?

If an EEO counselor is unable to resolve your claims, you can file a formal complaint online using your agency’s provided form.

Your claims should be clear and concise to avoid the agency misinterpreting the issues.

After you submit the formal claim of discrimination with the agency and your claim is accepted, an investigator will be assigned to research your claims in more detail.

To maximize your chances of success, it is vital that you consult an EEOC discrimination attorney before filing a formal complaint. 

What Happens If the EEOC Finds Discrimination?

After the formal stage, you can request a hearing from an EEOC judge via the EEOC Public Portal.

If the EEOC judge finds discrimination by your agency, then they can use a variety of remedies to make you whole again.

Examples of possible remedies include back pay, front pay, attorneys’ fees, and compensatory damages.

Who Has the Burden of Proof in an EEOC Complaint?

For most complaints, the initial burden of proof rests with the complainant (the person filing the claim).

They have to make what is called a prima facie case by establishing a few basic facts.

If they can do that, the burden of proof shifts to the employer to show that there were legitimate and non-discriminatory reasons for its action.

If the employer can meet this burden, the ultimate burden of proof then switches back to the complainant, who must prove that the employer’s reasons are just a pretext for discrimination. 

What Is the Average Settlement for Discrimination?

Unfortunately, there is no “average” EEOC complaint. Examples can be helpful, but they are highly dependent on specific facts.

And even small details can make a huge difference in the final settlement amount, and some settlements include non-monetary items like reassignments, clean records, and can include other “creative” options depending on the employee’s goals.

If you want a better idea about what your case is worth, then you should contact a qualified employment attorney. 

What Are the Chances of Winning a Discrimination Case?

No two cases of discrimination are alike, so it’s difficult to estimate your chances of winning.

The chances of winning a case depend on the facts of the case and how well you can present these facts to the EEOC judge.

Collecting evidence, securing witness statements, and carrying out discovery will also help boost your chances of winning.

Most importantly, having legal representation will drastically increase your chances of prevailing in your case. 

Can EEOC Remedy My Problem?

Often, yes. The EEOC can reinstate you into your position. They can also grant you a promotion or position that your employer denied you.

And they can even award you back-pay so that you receive all the compensation you should have received. 

How Do You Prove Discrimination In the Workplace?

To prove discrimination, a complainant has to first make a prima facie case. The facts required to prove a prima facie case vary from one type of case to another.

However, you can meet your burden through your own testimony and objective evidence.

Author Photo

Aaron Wersing, Attorney at Law

Aaron Wersing is the founder of the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing. Mr. Wersing graduated from the Georgia State University College of Law with a Doctorate in Jurisprudence and was the recipient of the CALI Excellence for the Future Award. Mr. Wersing previously attended the University of Georgia, where he received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Accounting. Mr. Wersing is an active member of his local community. Mr. Wersing acts as a volunteer attorney with Houston Volunteer Lawyers, the pro bono legal aid organization of the Houston Bar Association. He is also a member of professional legal organizations such as the National Employment Lawyers Association and the American Inns of Court. To reach Aaron for a free consultation, please call him at (833) 833-3529.

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