A federal employee begins the EEO process by making initial contact with an EEO counselor at his/her agency within forty-five calendar days of the date of the matter alleged to be discriminatory or, in the case of personnel action, within 45 days of the effective date of the action. 29 CFR 1614.105 (a). At some point shortly following this initial contact, an initial EEO interview session (some also refer to the interview session as “counseling”) will be conducted in accordance with applicable law and EEOC guidance at Management Directive (MD) -110. Note, there are certain circumstances in which a complainant can fulfill the administrative requirement of seeking EEO counseling by the indicated deadlines through initiating contact with an agency official “logically connected to the EEO process” and clearly showing an interest in pursuing the EEO process, regardless of whether the agency designated EEO Counselor is contacted on that day. Marshall v. Government Printing Office EEOC No. 0120073941 (EEOC OFO 2007).
The initial EEO interview session is a critical part of the EEO process for federal employees. An agency designated and (allegedly) trained EEO counselor will conduct the initial EEO interview session and provide all aggrieved individuals written notice of their rights and responsibilities. 29 C.F.R. § 1614.105(b). During this interview, the EEO Counselor will also attempt to determine the basis(es) and claim(s) adhering to the guidance in EEOC MD-110. Once the basis(es) and claim(s) are identified. the EEOC counselor will proceed to The Limited Inquiry. EEOC MD-110 prescribed, that,
It is important to note this inquiry is intended to be limited in scope and is not a substitute for the in-depth fact-finding required in the investigative stage (Report of Investigation) of a formal complaint process. Further, there is no evidentiary burden on the Complainant that must be met at this stage for the complaint to proceed. It is not a hearing. It is best described as intake. Its is not within the purview of the EEO Counselor to determine whether the Complaint is valid or invalid and the EEO Counselor should not attempt to discourage the Complainant from filing a complaint.
Following the limited inquiry, the EEO Counselor will determine the Claim(s) and Basis(es). During this process it is critically important the Complainant (you for example) carefully control information while always maintaining full transparency during the initial EEO interview session and limited inquiry. Never lie or be be disingenuous. Many Complainants lose control and later find their claims dismissed because they were not carefully crafted to meet EEOC requirements for processing or the EEO Counselor misinterpreted the information. However, the Complainant should not view this process as combative and should always be transparent. However, remember that how information is presented directly contributes to how it is interpreted. You may believe you are “stating a claim” while actually “failing to state a claim” as required.
This short article was intended to address the initial interview session. However, as you can plainly see, we were obligated to also address the limited inquiry component in significant part. This is because as with many administrative processes, there is often no distinct separation between components of that process. In one instance, there may be a clear demarcation between such processes whereas in another, even similar instance, the separation may be unclear. This is why we recommend obtaining professional consultation if possible.
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