What are federal EEO claims? This is a common question I receive from federal government workers. EEO claims or Equal Employment Opportunity Claims address discrimination, harassment and reprisal complaints of federal workers. Discrimination and harassment claims must be based on the fact that the claimant is a member of a protected class (relating to your race, age, disability, gender, etc.). Reprisal claims commonly involve adverse action(s) taken against the claimant for having complained of discrimination and/or harassment. All three claims can be handled through the federal EEO process. Your first step on this path is typically to contact your local EEO counselor to discuss your claim. For further information, the EEOC website can be found at: http://www.eeoc.gov/
At present, the EEO claims process is unfortunately long and can be complex. On the plus side, Federal workers can represent themselves (or hire an attorney represent them) during the process and there is typically no government filing fee.
For most federal employees the EEO process begins with a claim filed with his/her Human Resource Office. As part of the filing of a claim, the worker participates in informal counseling followed by the filing of a formal complaint, after which an independent investigator is assigned to question the parties and witnesses and draft a Report of Investigation (“ROI”).
Once the ROI is produced, the claimant can opt to have the agency (the government employer) decide the issue (without a hearing) or, instead, elect to have the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) assign a judge to decide the matter. If the claimant elects an EEOC hearing then he/she may conduct discovery (depositions, request production of documents, etc.) prior to the hearing to gather evidence. The EEOC hearing is a formal evidentiary hearing during which witnesses are called to testify and other evidence is introduced. Typically the EEOC administrative judge will render written decision following the hearing.