For the federal employees, the entire claim process of the federal government non-discrimination employment totally differs from the public sector and other public entities laws. Employees who work in federal sector have a short time to file a charge of discrimination. The first steps should be taken within 45 (forty-five) days of the discriminatory act. The employee needs to contact EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) office within the employee’s own agency in order to request an “informal complaint” (known as “informal counseling”). This period of time is mandatory and if the deadline is missed there is no second chance to bring your discrimination claim. Moreover, a mediation process can result in the loss of the right to continue the EEO process.
If the parties do not agree to mediation, a counselor will be assigned by the agency’s EEO office to the case. The counselor does not make a decision about whether discrimination happened. The counselor is supposed to interview the complainant and anyone else involved to collect information about what took place. The counselor will take the complainant’s sworn statement (affidavit). The EEO counselor may try to resolve the problem informally during the investigation. Nonetheless, if he or she fails to do it, at the end of the investigation, the counselor will prepare a report. The agency will give the complainant a document saying the complainant has the right to file a formal complaint with the agency’s EEO office.
The complainant then has only 15 days to file the formal complaint of discrimination. The 15-day deadline is mandatory, and just like the deadline for informal counseling if the employee misses this deadline, he or she will lose the right to bring the discrimination complaint based on this facts.
The agency will assign an investigator who will look at relevant documents, interview the complainant and interview witnesses. Then, the results of the investigation are compiled into a large volume called the Investigative File (IF). The agency has 180 days to prepare the investigative file, however, oftentimes the agency does not meet the deadline.
The IF is supposed to have enough information to determine whether discrimination took place, but the IF usually misses a lot of important information and/or gets the facts wrong in some ways. Thus, the complainant has to be careful to go through the file and properly request additional information.
The federal sector EEO process is a rat’s maze. It is complicated, full of traps, complexities and time limits. Unfortunately, employees have to go through this system. Nearly everyone needs an attorney to do this right. While the law is mostly the same as the law in the private sector but the procedures are different. Complainants are severely disadvantaged going through this without an attorney.