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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 9/16/18

Thinking About Filing a Complaint Against a Federal Agency? Learn the Process.

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stated in its May 14, 2018 press release, the federal government is the nation's largest employer with close to "2.5 million" employees and it "strives to serve as a model employer." Notwithstanding the government's goal to function as a model employer, it struggles to promote Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO). The Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination Act, commonly known as the "No FEAR Act," passed in 2002. One purpose of the Act is to hold federal agencies accountable for violating antidiscrimination and whistleblower-protection laws. Yet, it seems as if the Act does little to curb federal-workplace discrimination. The EEOC's 2018 press release revealed fiscal year 2015 federal EEO complaint activity rose "3.2% from the prior year."

Whether a federal employee or a job applicant, you have the right to file an EEO complaint against a federal agency that discriminates against you. Ideally, you should get familiar with the federal EEO complaint process long before the need arises for you to take action. If you have chosen a career in the federal government, it is never too early to learn the EEO complaint-filing basics. So, do your homework. Never dash into an agency's civil-rights office to report an alleged discriminatory act without knowing what will happen next. In addition, never blindly enter the EEO arena with high expectations or you will surely face immeasurable disappointment. When thinking of getting a lawyer to handle your case, still learn the federal EEO-complaint process. Make sure any lawyer you choose knows it too. After all, the federal EEO-complaint process differs markedly from the non-federal complaint process.

The federal complaint process is protracted and imbalanced. Federal officials, who serve to safeguard the agency interest doggedly apply ways to dismiss a claim brought by an employee or applicant. As shared in 17 Steps: A Federal Employee's Guide For Tackling Workplace Discrimination, one common reason an agency may dismiss a discrimination claim is because an aggrieved person failed to timely contact an EEO counselor. Generally, federal employees and job applicants must contact an agency EEO counselor within 45 days.

The EEOC's Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Report of the Federal Workforce, which captures the latest government-wide EEO data, revealed that thousands of individuals sought counseling after being exposed to alleged discriminatory treatment. In FY 2015 EEO counselings totaled 35,001; and formal complaints filed totaled 15,490.

The No FEAR act requires agencies to provide training to employees on their rights and remedies under federal antidiscrimination and whistleblower-protection laws. However, No FEAR does not require agencies to train employees on the A-B-Cs of how to file a timely complaint. Therefore, minorities, persons with disabilities, persons 40 and over, and persons who participate in EEO activity should make learning the federal EEO complaint process a priority. Based on the EEOC's federal complaint statistical data, these groups are most vulnerable to workplace inequality.

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Tanya Ward Jordan is the author of 17 STEPS: A Federal Employee's Guide For Tackling Workplace Discrimination. She serves as President and Founder of the Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C). C4C is an proactive non-profit self-help organization (more...)

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