Due process is a bedrock principle of our legal system. For federal workers in Texas and across the country, it is also a foundational element of employment; providing civil servants with avenues to protect themselves against actions that might result in wrongful dismissal.
The legal theory used to support a government worker's right to due process is one that might be a little mysterious for some readers. Its roots trace directly to the Constitution and its guarantee that government can't deprive an individual of life, liberty or property without due process. In 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court found that in some cases civil service laws and established government hiring practices make it possible to say that property rights extend to jobs.
With the potential of property rights acknowledged, the federal government has created various administrative processes to ensure due process is followed and this is where the question of this post becomes important.
Most readers will appreciate that there are two independent agencies tasked with hearing and resolving federal worker complaints – the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In some matters, the jurisdictions of the two agencies can overlap, but if a worker with a dispute attempts to launch appeals through both channels at the same time, it can lead to disaster.
Here's why. The MSPB's main mission is protecting the merit system. The EEOC's job is to ferret out illegal discrimination. Obviously, it becomes possible for either of the agencies to address an issue if it includes a claim of discrimination. However, Congress has made it clear that a worker with such a claim can't pursue due process through both.
A choice has to be made, and making the right one depends on having a clear understanding of your situation, your options and the processes used through each channel. To determine where your best chances for an optimal outcome are likely to be, consult an experienced attorney.