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Sterling Employment Law

Contacting an EEO counselor in order to file a complaint

An employee can be discriminated against by their employers either during the selection process or during employment. When this happens, that person can contact an Equal Employment Opportunity Counselor. The EEO counselor can be contacted at the job site or from the site where the person had applied for the job. However, the application should be done within 45 days from the day the discrimination incident occurred.

Once the person contacts the EEO office, the counselor will inform the person about their rights and responsibilities. The counselor will also seek some information about the person's situation. The counselor may also offer the person an option of either seeking counseling or participating in an alternative dispute resolution program. Since the ADR program can only be used in certain situations, the person can seek assistance from the counselor in order to check if the problem falls within the ambit of the ADR program.

If the employment dispute is not solved through the ADR program or counseling, a formal complaint can be filed with the agency's EEO office. The person will have to attend a final interview with the counselor, who will then give a notice along with instructions for filing a formal complaint. This interview will be conducted within 30 days of first contacting the EEO office for counseling. However, if the person has participated in ADR, the pre-complaint process will be extended by 90 days.

If the counselor fails to hold a final interview before the counseling period ends, then the person has a right to file a formal complaint without having the interview. However, the information that the interview was not conducted should be sent to the EEO office in a short letter, which will be submitted along with the complaint.

If the person has more than one discrimination complaint against a federal agency, the EEO's office must investigate the complaints together in order to ensure that the investigations are done quickly and efficiently. However, the EEO office should tell the person this before combining the complaints.

Source: EEOC.gov, "Contacting an EEO Counselor," accessed on Oct. 14, 2014

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