Filing a Race Discrimination Claim as a Federal Employee

August 10, 2023
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

Federal employees are entitled to many of the same anti-discrimination protections as employees in the private sector. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Rehabilitation Act and other laws protect federal employees against many forms of discrimination on the job. This includes protection against racial discrimination under Title VII.

Unfortunately, despite these protections, discrimination in the federal sector is still a very real issue.

If you are a federal employee and you have experienced racial discrimination on the job, you are not alone. Sadly, employees of federal departments, offices and agencies routinely face all forms of racial discrimination—from disparate treatment to wrongful termination. Despite growing awareness, it is clear that racial discrimination isn’t a problem that is simply going to go away—and it is something that many federal employees will be forced to confront for years (if not decades) to come.

Taking Action as a Victim of Racial Discrimination in the Federal Sector

As a federal employee, one of the best things you can do to aid in the fight against racial discrimination is to take legal action when you fall victim. By speaking up, you can hold your department, office or agency accountable and perhaps prevent similar instances in the future. Taking legal action allows you to seek remedies for your victimization as well—remedies which may include placement, reinstatement, and/or financial compensation.

Employees in the federal sector must follow specific procedures when filing discrimination claims—including racial discrimination claims under Title VII. Here is an overview of what you need to know about filing a racial discrimination claim under Title VII as a federal employee:

1. Contacting Your EEO Counselor

Before you can file a formal complaint, you must first contact your federal employer’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) counselor in most cases. Generally, you must do this within 45 days of experiencing racial discrimination on the job. While it is important to meet this deadline if at all possible, there are circumstances in which it can be extended. For example, you may be allowed to start the process after 45 days if:

  • You were not notified of the 45-day deadline to report discrimination on the job;
  • You did not learn of the discriminatory act (and could not reasonably have learned of the discriminatory act) within 45 days; or,
  • You were prevented from contacting the EEO counselor within 45 days due to circumstances beyond your control.

When you contact the EEO counselor, you will most likely be given two options: (i) to participate in counseling focused on resolving the issue; or (ii) to pursue alternative dispute resolution (ADR), which is usually mediation. While both of these options provide the opportunity to assert your legal rights and secure the remedies to which you are legally entitled, they each have different benefits and limitations—so you will want to discuss your options with a federal employment lawyer before deciding how to move forward.

In some cases, the counseling or ADR process will result in a settlement. If you are satisfied with the outcome at this stage of the process, you can accept a settlement and move on. If you are not satisfied, then your next step is to file a formal complaint with your employer.

2. Filing a Formal Racial Discrimination Complaint

Following the informal EEO process, you will have the opportunity to file a formal complaint. You must file this complaint with your department, office or agency—which will review your complaint and make an initial determination. The deadline for filing a formal complaint is 15 days after receiving notice from the EEO counselor.

At this stage, your employer can dismiss your complaint for both procedural and substantive reasons. As a result, here too, it is important to work with an experienced federal employment lawyer. Your employer will have up to 180 days to investigate, and then it must either: (i) issue a decision or (ii) give you the opportunity to request a hearing before an Administrative Judge at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If it issues a decision and you disagree with the outcome, you can either appeal the decision to the EEOC or take your racial discrimination claim to federal district court.

3. Hearings, Appeals and Requests for Reconsideration

From here, the process gets slightly more complicated. Depending on your employer’s decision and the route you choose to pursue, you may need to take a variety of different steps to assert your legal rights under Title VII. For example, at this stage, asserting your legal rights may involve one or more of the following:

  • Attending a hearing before an EEOC Administrative Judge. Even if the Administrative Judge rules in your favor, your federal employer can still disagree and issue a final order denying that any racial discrimination occurred.
  • Appealing your federal employer’s final order to the EEOC Office of Federal Operations. If you need to file an appeal, you must do so within 30 days of receiving the final order.
  • Filing a Request for Reconsideration. If the EEOC Office of Federal Operations sides with your department, office or agency, you can file a request for reconsideration if you can prove a mistake of fact or law. Here, too, you have 30 days to continue pursuing your legal rights.

4. Taking Your Federal Racial Discrimination Claim to Court

If necessary, the final step in the process involves taking your federal racial discrimination claim to court. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to challenge your employer’s or the EEOC’s decision in court on various grounds. Strict deadlines apply here as well, and to give yourself the best chance of a fair result, it will be important to have an experienced lawyer on your side.

Discuss Your Federal Racial Discrimination Claim with an Experienced Lawyer in Confidence

Have you experienced racial discrimination on the job as a federal employee? If so, we encourage you to contact us promptly for more information. Call 410-514-6099 or get in touch online to speak with an experienced lawyer at The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford in confidence.