Federal agencies in the 2010 fiscal year shelled out millions of more dollars for wrongful actions taken against employees. According to a new Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) report, average amounts awarded in resolution of formal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints rose by 12.4 percent to a net $46.9 million.
Highlighting why it pays for federal employees to take a stand against their employers’ illegal discriminatory and retaliatory practices, the EEOC’s 2010 Annual Report on the Federal Work Force shows that the per capita average monetary benefit awarded in resolution of formal EEO complaints rose by 5.1 percent to $12,335 in the 2010 fiscal year. According to the report, the per capita amount has jumped 37.4 percent since the 2006 fiscal year, when it averaged $8,978.
Driving this net monetary award increase was a 6.1 percent rise in closed complaints, which totaled 17,124 in the 2010 fiscal year. Of the closed cases, 3,623 (21.2 percent) ended in settlement, and 233 (3.3 percent) concluded with meritorious decisions finding discrimination.
For the fifth consecutive year, reprisal ranked as the top EEO complaint allegation in the 2010 fiscal year, accounting for 7,712 filed complaints, up 2.7 percent from the previous fiscal year. Age discrimination remained the second most common basis of EEO complaint allegations, accounting for 5,314 filed complaints.
Given the prevalence of reprisal complaints, federal employees should know that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Equal Pay Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibit employers from retaliating against them for participating in protected activities. Such activities include opposing unlawful discriminatory employment practices and filing or threatening to file a complaint or testifying, assisting or participating in investigations, proceedings or hearings covered by these laws. Employees who have been subjected to adverse actions, such as a denial of promotion, demotion, suspension or discharge, because of their participation in these protected activities have an actionable reprisal complaint.
Federal employees have 45 days after a discriminatory action occurred or after the effective date of a personnel action to contact an EEOC counselor who will provide them with the option of participating in EEOC counseling or an alternative dispute resolution program. If a resolution cannot be reached through one of these options, the employee can file a formal complaint against the agency, but this complaint must be filed within 15 days after the EEOC counselor provides a notice on how to undertake such action. Federal employees who have been subjected to unlawful discriminatory actions should contact a competent federal sector employment lawyer.