Is the Federal EEO Complaint System Fair

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Background Question

I don’t think the federal EEO Complaint system is fair. I was considering filing a complaint but did some research and found less than 3% of people who file a complaint actually win at hearing.  Why is this system so one sided?

The Federal EEO Complaint System is not Fair

We don’t believe the low percentage of prevailing employees should necessarily discourage you.  Here’s why.  While, it is true pro se employees prevail at extremely low rates before the EEOC, there are good reasons. However, many EEO complaints are settled prior to hearing. These settlements do not produce a public record. This, in significant part, explains why the data shows few employees receive a favorable ruling from an EEOC administrative law judge.  Strong cases tend to settle prior to a hearing while weaker, and even frivolous cases, tend to make their way before a judge. Further, very few employees seek legal counsel due to prohibitive costs.

When an employee files a formal complaint her she is signaling intent to take the dispute through administrative litigation processes. In other words, it becomes more adversarial.  The agency is required to complete an appropriate investigation (Report of Investigation) of the complaint within 180 days of the formal complaint filing.  Agency attorney’s will likely assist managers throughout the investigation to some degree.  Agency counsel will be assessing the facts of the case and make recommendations to agency leaders regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the complaint.  If the agency determines the employee’s case is factually weak there is little incentive for them to settle.

However, if an employee is armed with strong facts, coupled with reasonable expectations regarding remedies, and adequate presentation, the agency attorney will likely recommend settlement discussions at some point in the process.  Agency decision makers generally heed the recommendations of their legal counsel. It is in this phase where many complaints are resolved.  Don’t let the statistics dissuade you from using the EEO complaint process.


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