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Maryland Federal Employee Discrimination: What You Need to Know

Maryland federal employee discrimination is usually illegal under federal law. But the trick is figuring out what needs to be done to obtain legal relief. As a federal worker, the process for taking on employment discrimination will be a little different for you than for your friends in private industry. To learn how this process works, and on what basis you can take legal action, it’s best to consult with a Maryland federal employee discrimination lawyer, such as someone from the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford.

Speaking with an attorney doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sue or start the EEO complaint process. It can simply be an opportunity for you to talk to someone about what’s going on and get an idea of what you’re looking at from the legal perspective.

Discrimination Protections for Federal Employees

For the most part, if there is a federal law that protects a private employee from discrimination, it will also apply to a federal employee. Some are also in place that offer further protection for federal employees, such as whistleblower laws. Knowing that there are laws available, however, is only half the process. You also need to know what kind of conduct constitutes discrimination?

Almost any term or condition of employment, including:

  • Refusal to hire
  • Termination
  • Pay
  • Benefits, such as insurance, retirement plans and leave
  • Promotion denial
  • Access to employee facilities
  • Training programs
  • Demotion
  • Job transfer
  • Employee testing
  • Harassment
  • Retaliation for cooperating with an investigation into claims of discrimination or for complaining about discrimination

One thing to note is that discriminatory conduct does not always have to be intentional. Sometimes, an employer will have a policy that on its face, doesn’t discriminate. But when put into practice, it may have a disproportionate impact on employees of a particular group. This type of discrimination is called disparate impact.

What to Do if You’re the Victim of Discrimination While Employed by the Government

If you believe your employer has discriminated against you, then there are three main options for you to consider.

Option 1: Take No Formal Action. 

This might include trying to ignore the discriminatory conduct and hoping it stops on its own or talking to the person who is responsible for discriminating against you and asking them to stop or change their behavior.

If you’re reading this right now, you’ve probably already tried one or both of these options and had little to no success. But for a few lucky employees, it could work. Another thing to consider is that notifying your employer of the discrimination could lead to negative consequences, such as a retaliatory firing.

As awful and unfair as it sounds, if you truly believe that taking formal action about the discrimination you’re facing will lead to something far worse than the discrimination itself, then it might be best to do nothing about the discrimination. That being said, something should be made very clear about this option.

The decision to forego any formal action about the discrimination should only be made after first speaking with an employment lawyer. It might seem like reporting the discrimination will be the end of your job. You might also believe that any legal remedy will be insufficient to compensate you for the negative consequences you’re sure to face or that you’re not likely to succeed when taking legal action. This might be true, but it might not be. However, you don’t know until you speak to a legal professional that focuses on employment law.

Option 2: Utilize the EEO Complaint Process for Federal Employees.

This is very important for several reasons. First, it will usually be the best opportunity for you to both keep your job and stop the unwanted discriminatory behavior. Second, it makes it easier to raise a possible retaliation claim.

According to the EEOC, retaliation is not only the most common claim of discriminatory conduct in the federal employment context, but it’s also the most commonly found form of discrimination in federal employment.

By starting the EEO complaint process, you create a formal record of your discrimination allegations. If you suffer any adverse employment actions after you report the discrimination, then your employer’s actions against you can serve as evidence of retaliation. But if you don’t begin the EEO complaint process and retaliation were to take place, your employer will have an easier time defending itself by arguing that it never knew you complained about discrimination.

There’s also the fact that it’s often easier to successfully sue for retaliation than the underlying discrimination. This means that you can win on a claim of retaliation even if your discrimination claim fails. This happens more often than you might think.

The last major benefit of starting the EEO complaint process is that it’s usually legally required if you eventually want to sue in court for discrimination.

Option 3: File a Lawsuit with the Help of a Maryland Federal Employee Discrimination Lawyer .

Suing is the most drastic plan, but it’s sometimes the only action you can take if none of the above strategies have worked. Depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding your case, it could settle after a few weeks or take years just to get to trial.

The decision to sue an employer is not a decision that should be taken lightly given the potential financial and time costs. Yet it can also provide for the greatest opportunity for a financial recovery as well as providing the psychological satisfaction of “having your day in court.”

Sometimes this satisfaction is worth the time, cost and emotional stress of litigating. Other times, it’s not. This is a conversation you’ll need to have with both yourself and your Maryland federal employee attorney.

How the Discrimination of a Federal Employee Differs From That of Someone In the Private Sector

Whether you’re a federal government or private employee, the overarching process of dealing with discrimination is the same: try to handle it yourself, start a formal complaint process or sue. But there are key differences when you examine the path that a federal or private employee must take.

One key difference is in who you internally report the discrimination to. Many private employers will have a designated person, such as a human resource officer, who you can complain to about the discrimination. Federal employees will usually have a designated person as well, but it will be their EEO Counselor.

The next major difference is the formal complaint process. Federal employees will file a complaint with the government agency where they suffered discrimination. Private employees will file a charge (also known as a complaint) with the EEOC.

The final notable difference is the time to report the discrimination. A federal employee will have 45 days from the date of the discriminatory conduct to reach out to his or her EEO Counselor. Private employees have far more time. If filing a charge with the EEOC pursuant to Title VII, ADA and the ADEA, the private employee will have at least 180 days to do so.

Reach Out to a Maryland Federal Employee Discrimination Lawyer

As a federal employee, you have rights that allow you to take action for unlawful discrimination at work. But taking this action can seem like an intimidating or confusing task. Then there’s the fact that suing or filing a formal complaint may not be the first thing you can or should do.

Often, being the victim of workplace discrimination puts you in a no-win situation. Speak up, and suffer retaliation. Say nothing, and continue to deal with federal employee discrimination. But there are things you can do.

Some of these options may not be obvious or might require professional legal help. Either way, you can learn more by setting up a consultation with the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford online or by phone at 410-514-6099.