Federal Employee FAQ

I am an employee of the United States government and I believe that I have been discriminated against or harassed at work. What are my rights?

If you are an employee of the United States government and you have been subjected to discrimination or harassment, or retaliated against for reporting or opposing such conduct there are generally two agencies that protect your rights: the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the Merit Systems Protection Board (“MSPB”). Depending on which agency you work for and the type of action the agency has taken against you, you may be able to seek recourse through one or both of these agencies. 

How many days do I have as a federal employee to start the process for bringing a claim for discrimination or harassment against my employer?

Federal employees generally have only 45 days to contact an Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) counselor within their agency, which is the first step in the process for asserting their rights as it relates to a claim for discrimination or harassment. If you believe your removal, demotion, or suspension of more than 14 days was due to discrimination or harassment, you may also be able to file an appeal with the MSPB within 30 days of the effective date of the adverse action. Each option has its benefits and drawbacks. These deadlines are much shorter than the deadlines that normally apply to employees who are not employed by the United States government.

I thought the EEOC handles discrimination or harassment claims that I may have against the agency that I work for if I am a federal employee. Why do I have to contact someone within my own agency if I wish to sue them?

Each federal agency has an office that handles EEO responsibilities. The first half of your case will be spent interacting with this office. It will be responsible for coordinating the investigation into your matter, providing you with a cost-effective way to learn whether discrimination or harassment occurred and setting up a foundation for further inquiries once your case is sent to an administrative judge with the EEOC or MSPB.

How can I trust that the agency I am suing is conducting an unbiased investigation into my discrimination or harassment complaint?

Each office that oversees EEO responsibilities is required to be separate from the office of the attorneys who defend the agency against cases such as yours. It is also common for federal agencies to outsource their EEO investigations to private entities. Nevertheless, there can sometimes be a discrepancy between the facts that you believe are important for the investigator to consider and the facts that the investigator chooses to focus on.    


To ensure that you do not miss deadlines and that a thorough investigation is conducted regarding your case, it is imperative that you contact an attorney to discuss your options. The attorneys at Dobson, Berns and Rich, LLP, can guide you through the process to ensure that you have the best chance of succeeding in an administrative proceeding or a trial in court.