Federal Employees News Digest
Filing a discrimination claim? Know your deadlines
If you feel like you’ve been passed over for a job or mistreated by a coworker because of your race, religion, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation or disability, you have a right to file a discrimination claim under the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEO). However, to be successful, it’s not enough to have good facts and witnesses; you need to know your deadlines!
Deadlines are important wherever you go, but in an EEO case, missing a deadline can be the end of your case, no matter how strong a case you have. If you go to the wrong department, or if you file an appeal one day too late, your claim will be denied. Therefore, it is important for you to know where to go in what order, and how many days you have in order to file appeals.
The first step in any discrimination claim is to visit your agency’s EEO Counselor. Contact with the counselor must take place within forty-five (45) days of when the discriminatory act occurred, or else your case will not be heard. Usually, the counselor will give you a choice between participating in EEO counseling or an alternative dispute resolution program, such as mediation.
If counseling doesn’t work, the next step is to file a formal complaint with your agency’s EEO Office within fifteen (15) days of receiving notice from your EEO Counselor about how to file. From this stage on, you must keep in mind that every last detail you file in your claim will be carefully scrutinized, and every deadline will be monitored closely. One small oversight or missed deadline will mean that your claim will be denied for procedural reasons.
If your agency doesn’t dismiss your formal complaint to the EEO Office, it is obligated to conduct an investigation within one hundred and eighty (180) days from the day you filed. When complete, your agency will issue a notice giving you the choice of requesting a hearing before an EEOC Administrative Judge (AJ) or issuing a final agency decision (“FAD”). If you choose to receive a FAD and the Agency finds that no discrimination took place, or if you disagree with a part of the decision, you have the right to then file an appeal with the EEOC or take your case to federal district court.
If you want an AJ to hear your case, you must file a request for a hearing in writing within thirty (30) days from when your agency gave you notice. As long as your claim isn’t denied on procedural grounds, the AJ will hear your case and issue a decision to your agency. From there, the agency will issue a final order to you within forty (40) days, which will include whether the agency agrees with the AJ’s ruling and whether it will grant you any monetary relief.
At this stage, both you and your agency have the right to file an appeal with the EEOC Office of Federal Operations. If you disagree with your agency’s final order, you have up to thirty (30) days after receiving the order to file your appeal. If your agency disagrees with the ruling, it must appeal to the EEOC. In either case, EEOC appellate attorneys will review every aspect of your claim and issue their own ruling.
You can also request a reconsideration of the EEOC’s decision if you believe it was based on a mistake about the facts of the case or if the wrong law was applied to the facts. However, any decision on the EEOC makes on a request for reconsideration is final, and you will run out of EEOC appeals.
As you have seen in many of these scenarios, there is always the possibility of filing an appeal in federal district court. The deadlines are:
- 180 days from the date when you filed your complaint, if your agency hasn’t issues a decision and an appeal hasn’t been filed
- 90 days from the date when you received your agency’s decision, so long as an appeal hasn’t been filed
- 180 days from the date when you filed your appeal, if the EEOC hasn’t issued a decision
- 90 days from the date when you received the EEOC’s decision
No matter where you are in the process of filing a discrimination claim, it’s best to have an employment and labor attorney who is familiar with these filing requirements by your side to make certain you are filling every form out correctly and meeting your deadlines.
It’s hard enough to prevail on a claim of discrimination. The last thing you want is the Court dismissing your case based on a technicality for failure to meet a deadline.
Mathew B. Tully, Esq. is the Founding Partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC, a full-service law firm with eight offices throughout the United States, including Washington, D.C. Mr. Tully focuses his practice on federal labor and employment law, appellate law and Congressional investigations. For more information on Tully Rinckey PLLC call 202-787-1900, or visit www.fedattorney.com