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Workplace Discrimination & Federal EEO

Workplace Discrimination & Federal EEO
Practice Area

Alan Lescht and Associates successfully represents federal government employees in EEO cases involving discrimination, hostile work environment, and harassment.

What is discrimination?

Employment discrimination can take many forms.  Discrimination may occur in the form of an adverse employment action, such as termination, suspension, demotion, or non-selection for a job.  Employers discriminate through less formal acts, such as taking away telework privileges, giving negative performance ratings, denying requests for training, or reassigning job duties.  Discrimination may also occur in the form of hostile work environment, which is harassment that does not result in an adverse action.

 

It is illegal for federal government employers to discriminate against job applicants, employees, and contractors based on protected traits.  Here are some examples:

Age Discrimination

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits federal employers from discriminating because of age against people who are 40 years of age or older.  This means that, in most cases, an employee cannot be denied a promotion, removed in a reduction-in-force, or forced to retire because of age.

Color Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits federal employers from discriminating because of color.  Color discrimination is based on skin color complexion.  For example, an employer could discriminate based on color by selecting a job applicant who has a lighter complexion, even though the applicant is the same race as another job applicant.

Disability Discrimination

The Rehabilitation Act prohibits federal employers from discriminating because of disability.  Federal agencies must also provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities.  Examples of accommodations include telework, an alternative work schedule, leave to attend medical appointments, an office close to a restroom, and modified job duties.

Genetic Information Discrimination

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) prohibits federal employers from discriminating because of genetic information.  Genetic information may include genetic testing results and family history.  For example, it is illegal to fire an employee because the employee’s mother had a genetic illness.

National Origin Discrimination

Title VII prohibits federal employers from discriminating because of national origin.  National origin discrimination occurs when an employee is treated unfavorably because he/she is from a particular part of the world or a specific country.  Evidence of national origin discrimination may include comments and jokes about a person’s apparel, mannerisms, accent, or cultural traditions.

Race Discrimination

Title VII prohibits federal employers from discriminating because of race or characteristics associated with a certain race (skin color, facial features, hair texture, etc.).  Evidence of race discrimination may include use of racial slurs, displaying racially-offensive symbols, or joking about racial stereotypes.

Religious Discrimination

Title VII prohibits federal employers from discriminating because of religious beliefs, or lack of religious beliefs.  Federal agencies are also required to provide reasonable accommodations based on religion.  Accommodations may include flexible scheduling or modified job duties.

Pregnancy Discrimination

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits federal employers from discriminating based on pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.  Generally, the law requires employers to treat women who are pregnant or who have a medical issue related to pregnancy or childbirth, like an employee who has a disability.  For example, federal agencies must provide reasonable accommodations.  Women should not be given less important duties and assignments, rejected for leadership roles, or passed over for career advancement opportunities because of pregnancy or childbirth.

Sex Discrimination

Title VII prohibits federal employers from discriminating because of sex.  Evidence of sex discrimination may include comments about an employee’s apparel, mannerisms, marital status, and parental duties.  Employees who have been subjected to sexual harassment, sexual orientation discrimination, gender identity discrimination, and pregnancy discrimination may also have claims for sex discrimination.

Sexual Orientation Discrimination and Gender Identity Discrimination

Title VII does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  However, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) currently considers sexual orientation discrimination and gender identity discrimination to be forms of sex discrimination.  Additionally, Executive Orders prohibit federal employees and contractors from discriminating because of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Sexual Harassment

Title VII prohibits federal employers from subjecting employees to sexual harassment.  Sexual harassment is unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.  It can range from sexually explicit language to requests for sexual favors.  Both men and women may be victims of sexual harassment.

Retaliation

The ADEA, GINA, the Rehabilitation Act and Title VII also make it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who complain about discrimination or who participate in a discrimination case, whether it was the employee’s own case or someone else’s.

What are my rights?

You have the right to work without fear of discrimination or retaliation.  Federal employees have more options than private sector employees in discrimination cases.  However, navigating the federal EEO process can be challenging.  Federal employees must contact their agency’s EEO counselor within 45 days of the discrimination.  This initial contact begins a 30-day period of informal counseling, which usually includes a brief investigation of the claims.  After informal counseling ends, the agency gives the employee a Notice of Right to File a Formal Complaint.

 

If the employee wants to continue the process, he/she must file a Formal Complaint within 15 days.  The Formal Complaint should explain how the employee was discriminated or retaliated against, identify who is responsible, and include details about what happened.  It is very important to meet all federal EEO deadlines, or the agency can dismiss your complaint for untimeliness.

 

After an employee files a Formal Complaint, the agency has 180 days to investigate the claims.  When the investigation is complete, the agency must give the employee the report of investigation and notify him/her of their rights.  Federal employees may request a final agency decision (FAD), request a hearing before an EEOC administrative judge, or file a lawsuit in federal district court.

Why should I hire Alan Lescht and Associates?

If your federal employer discriminated against you, we can help.  Our attorneys will work with you to evaluate your case, discuss your options, and develop a strategy to assert your rights.  Alan Lescht and Associates represents federal government employees in the following EEO matters:

  • EEO complaints and investigations
  • Final agency decisions (FAD)
  • EEOC Office of Federal Operations (OFO) appeals
  • EEOC administrative hearings
  • Office of Compliance cases
  • Federal lawsuits
  • Mediation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR)
  • Settlement negotiations

Send us an email or call us at (202) 463-6036 to speak with an experienced employment attorney. Alan Lescht and Associates offers strategic and results-driven legal services to federal government employees around the world.

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Al-Saffy v. USDA
Successful appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit paves way for $382,500 settlement
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Woodrow v. U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission
EEOC victory reversing agency's dismissal of age discrimination claims and reinstating the claims for investigation
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Lott v. U.S. Department of the Navy, et al.
EEOC hearing success after three days of testimony on retaliation claims
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Reasonable Accommodations Lawyers for Federal Government Employees
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Al-Saffy v. USDA

We convinced the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to overturn a trial court’s decision that granted summary judgment in favor of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on our client’s claims of discrimination based on religion and national origin as well as retaliation. Our successful appeal resulted in a $382,500 settlement to compensate our client for attorney’s fees, back pay, and compensatory damages.  Al-Saffy v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, 827 F.3d 85 (D.C. Cir. 2016).

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Woodrow v. U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission

EEOC Appeal No. 0120162241

Our client worked as the Associate Regional Director at an SEC Regional Office. He supervised a staff of 52 members, including 45 attorneys. Our client entered a settlement agreement with the agency to resolve a discrimination complaint. In part, he agreed to voluntarily change positions. Unfortunately, the agency further discriminated against our client in his new position. After filing a new EEO complaint, the agency dismissed his claim, stating that he waived his age-based claims pursuant to the settlement agreement.

We successfully convinced that OFO that he had not waived his claims. The OFO ordered the agency to reinstate and investigate his claims.

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Lott v. U.S. Department of the Navy, et al.

EEOC No. 531-2013-00110X

Our client worked for Navy as the Deputy Department Head of Radiology at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. We represented the client at a three-day hearing before an EEOC administrative judge. Based on the arguments and evidence we presented, the judge ruled in our client’s favor and found that the agency retaliated against our client for pursuing his EEO complaint.

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