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Employees who are considering filing an EEO complaint often wonder "Do I have a case?" or "Have I been discriminated against?" There are some rules of thumb that you can use to determine if you have been the victim of federal employment discrimination or any other type of employment discrimination. In brief, the elements that you should look at in assessing your case are harm, similarly situated employees and justification.
Harm is the most basic element examined by employment lawyers and courts in determining whether a plaintiff has been the victim of discrimination. Generally speaking, some harm must have befallen the plaintiff as a result of the alleged discriminatory actions. Categories of harm that might qualify for this purpose are physical harm as in the case of assault or battery; economic harm as in the case of denial of promotions or unfair discipline; or emotional harm such as verbal abuse or ridicule. Often, a victim of discrimination will have suffered harm in more than one of these categories. However, if no concrete definable harm has occurred, then it is likely that there was no discrimination.
The second element is concerned with similarly situated employees. A similarly situated employee is an employee who occupies the same, or substantially the same, position as the plaintiff. This element has two components - similarly situated employees of a different race than the plaintiff and similarly situated employees of the same protected group as the plaintiff. In any discrimination case, it is usually necessary, or at least extremely helpful, for the plaintiff to be able to show that similarly situated employees who performed the same or similar actions as the plaintiff were treated better. On the other hand, it can be detrimental to the plaintiff's case if similarly situated employees of the same protected group as the plaintiff are found to be treated better than the plaintiff. This category shows whether the factor that caused the plaintiff to be treated differently was the protected category, not actions or position in the company.
Finally, an agency seldom takes adverse employment actions against employees without some sort of justification. Sometimes this justification is genuine, but too often it serves as a cover for discriminatory practices. The quality of the agency's justification for the actions that it takes is always taken into account by discrimination lawyers in deciding on the merits of discrimination claims.
The factors outlined above are not the only ones considered by federal employment lawyers under discrimination law, but they do provide a convenient benchmark for laymen to assess the viability of their cases before contacting a federal employment lawyer.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Federal Sector Hearing Process
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has prepared a list of questions they are commonly asked about the Federal EEOC Hearings process. Click here to see it.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Handbook for Administrative Judges (July 1, 2002)
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has made this handbook available on the web. Inside, you will find all of the guidelines that administrative judges use in their work. Click here to see it.
Some of the Discrimination Cases Snider and Associates has handled
After being denied a promotion, a federal government employee claimed discrimination on the basis of gender and retaliation. She had expressed interest in the Acting Technical Advisor position but was not allowed an opportunity to volunteer for that job. Although the position would not have resulted in a pay increase, it offered a valuable opportunity for growth and experience. A male employee volunteered for the position during a meeting held on the female employee's AWS day off. For six months, the employee asked her supervisor if the male was ATA but was told he was not. After uncovering indisputable written evidence of the male being ATA, she confronted her supervisor. He denied the action again, but the next day gave the male ATA a temporary promotion. She filed an EEO complaint. A year later, a permanent GS-14 position opened up and the male employee was selected. The promotion panel explicitly relied upon the ATA duties and those acquired by the male employee during his temporary promotion for his selection. The female employee filed another complaint, which was consolidated for hearing with the first complaint. After a one-day hearing, the EEOC Administrative Judge found intentional discrimination and retaliation, and awarded the employee a retroactive promotion to the GS-14 position with backpay, interest and attorney fees.
Currently handling a high profile racial discrimination matter involving a Federal employee in Washington, D.C. Since being assigned to the position of ""Special Assistant,"" complainant was discriminated in the area of assignments, evaluations, promotions, working space and proposed termination. Complainant was the only African American in his department and forced to take a disability retirement as a result of the hostile work environment created by his supervisors. Complainant was misled into believing that his ""promotion"" would greatly benefit his career, when in actuality it was nothing more than a trap door to termination.
A federal government employee in Dallas, Texas needed representation before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in a complex case alleging hostile working environment, discrimination based on gender, race, disability, retaliation and religion. The client had over 30 complaints combined into one hearing, which took over 12 days to complete. Although no decision has been rendered, the EEOC's Office of Federal Operations (OFO) recently reversed the decision of another EEOC Administrative Judge (AJ) in the same District Office dismissing many of the client's complaints. The OFO found religious discrimination when the client was denied religious compensatory time and remanded the matter for a hearing on compensatory damages.
One minority client worked for the Clerk of the Court for Baltimore County. She had been terminated from her position due to alleged performance deficiencies. We presented evidence at an internal administrative hearing that the deficiencies were normal work problems, that other non-minority employees had the same or worse work problems but were not fired. The employee was reinstated with full backpay.
Discrimination based upon retaliation by a Federal employer. The employee had filed several discrimination complaints based upon his non-promotion due to his disability. In addition, the employee was responsible for ""Whistle Blowing"", in that he reported the organization to the U. S. Department of Labor for various Occupational Safety and Health Administration (""OSHA"") violations. Employer contended that such promotions were given to employees more geographically centrally located to the facility in accordance with a union contract. However, this contention was disputed by the Union Steward.