What Are Your Rights if You Experience Discrimination as a Federal Job Applicant?
There is a significant amount of federal law devoted to preventing discrimination in the workplace. In fact, there are even federal agencies, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, devoted to the prevention and elimination of workplace discrimination. But what do you do if you have been discriminated against when applying for federal employment? A federal employment discrimination attorney can help you understand your rights and your options.
You Have the Right to Not Be Discriminated Against in the Hiring Process
It may be obvious, but it is worth emphasizing that you have the right to be considered solely on your qualifications and merits when applying for a job in the federal government. This means that you should not be denied employment on any of the following bases:
- Your age, if you are 40 or older
- Any mental or physical disability that you suffer from
- Your sex including gender identity, sexual orientation, or pregnancy
- Your religion
- Your race, national origin, or ethnicity
If you have been denied employment in any way for any one of these reasons, you may be able to pursue a discrimination claim and should contact a federal employment discrimination attorney to discuss your rights.
You Have a Right to File an Informal Complaint with the Agency
If you have been denied a job for discriminatory reasons, the first step is to make an informal complaint with the EEO counselor with the agency where you applied. You must contact the counselor within 45 days from the date you were denied employment.
You Have the Right to Participate in EEO Counseling or ADR
Once you have made your complaint to the agency’s EEO counselor, they should offer you the opportunity to participate either in EEO counseling or, if the agency offers it, alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Both are options to talk through the situation with the agency and hopefully reach a mutually agreeable resolution. Counseling must be completed within 30 calendar days and ADR must be completed within 45 calendar days.
You Have the Right to File a Formal Complaint
If you are unable to resolve the issue through either EEO counseling or ADR, you may then file a formal complaint with the agency alleging that you have been denied employment for discrimination reasons. You must file your complaint within 15 days from the date you are notified by the EEO counselor of the outcome of your informal complaint and your right to file.
The agency will then do one of two things:
- Dismiss your complaint for procedural reasons; or
- Conduct an investigation.
Assuming that your complaint is not dismissed, the agency has 180 days to conduct its investigation. At the conclusion of the investigation, you will be given the option to request a hearing or ask the agency to issue a decision.
You Have the Right to a Hearing
You have the right to have your case heard before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The hearing will be a quasi-judicial proceeding where you will have the opportunity to present evidence and testimony concerning your claim. After hearing your claim, the ALJ will issue a decision and order relief if they believe that you have been discriminated against.
Unfortunately, the agency is not required to agree with the ALJ’s decision and grant the relief ordered. They have 40 days to issue a “final order” that indicates whether they agree with the decision and what steps they will take.
You Have the Right to Appeal to the EEOC
Whether you requested a hearing or asked the agency to issue a decision, you have the right to appeal the decision to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. There are strict deadlines for filing your appeal. If you do not file by the deadline, you could lose all of your rights. Upon receipt of your appeal, EEOC attorneys will review the entire record of your complaint and render a decision.
You Have the Right to File a Lawsuit
Generally speaking, you must proceed through the administrative process before you can file a lawsuit. However, there are points in the process where you can elect to pursue a claim in federal district court.
You Have the Right to Seek Counsel
You can engage counsel at any point in the process, even at the very beginning. A federal employment discrimination attorney can determine what evidence you will need and how to get it. They can guide you through the process so that you do not compromise your claim due to procedural errors. They can provide advice as to when is the right time to pursue your claim in court.