As a federal employee, you have a number of workplace protections. Among them are the standard protections from employment discrimination on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, and national origin that those who work in the private sector enjoy. These protections extend to every aspect of employment, too, from hiring and promotion to discipline and termination. You’re also protected from retaliation when you report wrongdoing in the workplace, and you’re shielded from sexual harassment, age discrimination, and pregnancy discrimination.
But federal employees are wronged by their employer all the time. When this occurs, these workers can suffer an extensive amount of harm. This is unfair, which is why if you feel like you’ve been treated unfairly by your employer, you might want to consider taking legal action to protect your interests. But pursuing a discrimination claim against a federal employer looks different from similar claims levied against private employers.
Your first step
If you hope to find accountability and recover compensation or reinstatement to your position, you’re going to have to follow the proper process. First, you’ll need to contact your agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity Counselor. Generally speaking, this contact has to be made within 45 days of the discriminatory behavior.
At that point, you may be given the option to participate in mediation or some sort of alternative dispute resolution with your employer. If you can’t resolve your issue through those means, you might be given the go ahead to file a formal complaint with the EEOC.
Filing your formal complaint
Once your complaint is filed, it will be assessed to determine if it should be dismissed for some sort of procedural error, but if there are no errors, the matter will be fully investigated. This investigation is typically completed within 180 days. At the end of the investigatory period, you can either request an administrative hearing or request that the agency make a finding as to whether discrimination did or did not occur as specified in your complaint.
Final agency decision and filing your case in federal court
If an administrative law judge finds that discrimination occurred, they can issue an order providing you with relief. Your agency will then issue a final order either agreeing with that determination or not. If the final order is contrary to your position, you may be able to move the matter to federal court where you can appeal the agency’s decision.
Keep in mind, too, that the agency that you work for can agree to settle your case at any time. If, however, your case doesn’t resolve for whatever reason and the final agency authority issues an order finding that discrimination didn’t occur, you need to be prepared to appeal your case. This means that you’ll need to understand the timelines involved and exactly what you need to do to position yourself for success on appeal.
Exceptions to the process
Depending on your circumstances, you might be able to bypass the administrative process altogether and take your case straight to federal court. This is the case when allegations of age discrimination are made and when gender pay discrimination occurs.
Know how to protect your interests
We know that being discriminated against or harassed in your place of work can leave you feeling vulnerable, embarrassed, humiliated, afraid, and stressed. But you shouldn’t be forced to endure that. That’s why law firms that are skilled in employment law are here to help your voice be heard and put a stop to egregious workplace behavior. So, if you’d like to learn more about how to navigate your employment law dispute in the context of federal employment, now may be the best time for you to reach out for legal guidance.