As noted in our last article, federal employees in Atlanta, Georgia and throughout the United States are protected against discrimination by numerous different federal laws. However, in order to effectively use the laws you must know when, where and what to file. This is particularly true with anti-discrimination laws the prohibit race, color, national origin, sex, religion, reprisal, age, disability and genetic counseling discrimination.
Atlanta federal employees who wish to file an anti-discrimination claim must complete “pre-complaint counseling”
Our Atlanta employment attorneys regularly practice in this area and understand how important it is to timely file your complaint. Therefore, the first step for a federal employee who wants to file an EEO complaint is to engage in what is called “pre-complaint counseling” within 45 day of the discriminatory incident or 45 days from the effective date of a personnel action. This means the employee must initiate contact with an EEO counselor within 45 days, even if they don’t actually talk with an EEO counselor. Under the following scenarios an employee would be considered to have meet the 45 day deadline:
- You call the EEO counselor and leave a message within the 45 day time period, but they do not call you back until day 55;
- You call your Agencies EEO office within the 45 day time period and talk with an EEO manager or other employee in the office, but the EEO counselor did not call you back within 45 days;
- You speak with an EEO counselor within 45 days and they tell you, your complaint cannot be filed, but you later learn it can be; or
- You repeatedly request a reasonable accommodation for a condition, but the Agency repeatedly denies your request. After 12 months of denials you initiate pre-complaint counseling
Sometimes the pre-complaint counseling stage is referred to as the informal stage. Don’t be fooled by this terminology, this stage of the process is very important. The counselor has the ability to determine your complaint is not timely, which will prevent you from preceding. During your contact with the EEO counselor you must tell him or her all the grounds for your complaint so that you are timely. For instance, if three different incidents of discrimination happened on one day, but you only tell the counselor about two of the incidents you may be prohibited from later adding the third incident. It is important to treat the “informal” pre-complaint counseling stage as serious as all other stages of the process.
You may be wondering what is the EEO counselor’s role during this process. The EEO counselor should assist you in defining your claims and framing the complaint, explain the EEO process, advise you of your rights and try to informally resolve your claims. Remember, the EEO counselor is not your advocate. They should not discourage from filing a complaint. Many federal employees mistakenly believe the counselor is working and advocating for them. This is simply not the case. The EEO counselor should be neutral during the process.
The discriminating federal agency will interview the employee after the EEO counselor has been contacted
Once you have contacted the EEO counselor the Agency has thirty days to conduct a final interview. You can agree to extend the period for the final interview by no more than 60 days. If you agree to participate in alternative dispute resolution such as mediation, the pre-complaint counseling period is 90 days.
There are some exceptions to contacting the EEO counselor within the 90 day period. If you have questions, about the timeliness of your claim, contact one of our attorney’s for a consultation. Our lawyers represent federal employees in Atlanta, Georgia and also in Macon, Savannah, Athens, Kennesaw, Marietta, Decatur, Dunwoody, Stone Mountain, Tucker, Alpharetta, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Duluth, Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Norcross, Gainesville, as well as the counties of Bibb, Chatham, Clarke, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Richmond. We also assist those elsewhere in the state of Georgia and represent federal employees nationwide.