Federal employment discrimination claims: What Texas workers should know

When federal workers in Texas are unlawfully discriminated against, they may choose to file a formal charge with the EEOC.

Despite laws prohibiting it, discrimination sometimes occurs in federal workplaces throughout Texas and elsewhere. This includes employers treating employees unfairly based on their age, color, sex, race, national origin, religion or disability. Simply knowing such actions violate their employment rights is not enough for workers, however. It is important that they also understand how to go about seeing such wrongs made right.

How are formal charges filed?

When federal workers feel they have been discriminated against, they may choose to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. People may file charges of discrimination in person at an EEOC field office. Alternatively, they may send the EEOC a letter with information, including a description of the event and the reason they believe the discrimination occurred.

The EEOC does not take complaints over the phone. However, people may initiate the process by calling and providing some information that will be forwarded to their local field office. From there, the local field office will make contact to discuss the situation.

Investigating claims

Once a discrimination complaint is made to the EEOC, the commission may choose to investigate. To determine if it is likely that discrimination occurred, an investigator reviews information, such as personnel policies and files, provided by the worker and the organization. The investigator may also visit the workplace and conduct witness interviews.

In cases when the EEOC finds there was indeed workplace discrimination, those involved are invited to pursue a settlement, which may include an award of compensatory damages, through conciliation. Employees may choose to take legal action if they are not able to come to a resolution with their employers. When reasonable cause is not found, those involved are issued a notice of the charge's dismissal and their rights.

Voluntary mediation

After a charge is filed, but before the investigation commences, the EEOC may suggest mediation. An informal, voluntary process, mediation allows workers and organizations to discuss their issues with the assistance of a neutral third-party. This allows them the opportunity to achieve an amicable resolution, and avoid a potentially lengthy investigation or litigation.

The mediator, a representative or representatives from the organization, and the complainant typically attend mediation sessions. Both sides may choose to bring legal counsel with them, although it is not required. Depending on how complicated the case is, it may last three to four hours or more.

Obtaining legal counsel

Just the thought of going up against a federal employer alone may intimidate Texas workers. Thus, people who believe they have been discriminated against in the workplace may benefit from working with a lawyer. A legal representative may guide them through the process, and look out for their best interests.