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WHAT LAWS PROTECT FEDERAL EMPLOYEES FROM DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT?

If you have been a victim of discrimination, you need an experienced EEO complaint lawyer who can walk you through the steps to file an EEO complaint against the federal government. If you have struggled in a discriminatory or hostile work environment, we can explain federal laws governing discrimination and determine whether you have a case to pursue against your federal agency at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or in federal court.

We have extensive experience protecting federal employees from discrimination.  When an employer treats an employee differently because of the employee’s membership in a protected class, it is considered disparate treatment.  Disparate treatment may include hostile work environments, denial of promotions, or lack of sufficient pay. Laws that protect federal employees from undue discrimination and harassment include:

 

TITLE VII OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1963

Title VII prohibits federal agencies from discriminating against federal employees because of sex, gender, race, national origin, color, religion, or prior EEO activity. Title VII prohibits the federal government from taking any employment action based on these protected classes.

While some federal employees face blatant discriminatory acts, subtle and nuanced discrimination is far more common in federal government workplaces. The Supreme Court, as well as the EEOC, has long recognized that unlawful discrimination under Title VII can stem from stereotypes and other types of cognitive biases and conscious animus. More recent cases continue to validate claims based on an employers’ biased thinking. Unconscious bias is often a factor in non-selection or non-promotion claims, as well as claims of harassment and hostile work environment. While these claims can be more difficult to prove, the attorneys at The Federal Practice Group are well versed in pursuing discrimination claims of subtle nature.

Additionally, in recent years, the EEOC has broadened the protection afforded under Title VII, finding that Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination also protects federal employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The EEOC has also seen a recent increase in national origin and religious discrimination claims, as there have been increased incidents of discrimination against employees whose national origin is a Middle Eastern country and/or those who observe the religion of Islam.

If you believe that your federal agency is discriminating against you because you belong to a protected class, or as retaliation for opposing discrimination through the EEO, contact an attorney with The Federal Practice Group to get an assessment of your position.

THE REHABILITATION ACT OF 1973 AND REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits federal agencies from discriminating against employees on the basis of disability. The act also requires federal agencies to provide Reasonable Accommodations to disabled employees and prohibits retaliation/reprisal for participation in protected activity.

Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires both nondiscrimination and affirmative action with respect to disabled federal employees and applicants for federal employment. It specifically provides that the standards used to determine whether a federal agency has discriminated against an individual with a disability “shall be the standards applied under title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. . . as such sections relate to employment.”  Section 501 also provides that the federal government “shall be a model employer of individuals with disabilities.”

Recent amendments ADA have made it easier for employees, including federal employees, to establish that they are “qualified individuals with a disability” who are entitled to protection and reasonable accommodation under the law. If you need advice or assistance on requesting reasonable accommodation, or if you have been denied a reasonable accommodation, The Federal Practice Group can help. 

In some cases, a federal employee may need legal assistance to establish that he or she is a “qualified individual with a disability” who requires reasonable accommodation from his or her agency . A reasonable accommodation is considered a change, adaptation, or modification in the workplace that is needed for disabled employees to fulfill the duties of the job. Reasonable accommodations may also include changes or modifications to policies which enable all qualified workers to accomplish the tasks that their specific job requires. Requests for reasonable accommodation can include modifications to a workstation, wheelchair accessibility, accessible parking, telecommuting, or other similar changes. Managers and supervisors are not allowed to discriminate or otherwise ignore reasonable requests from their employees, or to retaliate against a request for reasonable accommodation. If you have experienced discrimination or are concerned about your rights when it comes to requests for reasonable accommodation, you need to contact an experienced attorney without delay.

If you are a current federal employee or applicant for federal employment suffering from a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, you may be eligible for a reasonable medical accommodation in your current position or the position to which you have applied. The attorneys at the Federal Practice Group are well versed in laws governing the reasonable accommodation process. We have successfully assisted federal employees through all stages of the process; submitting a reasonable accommodation request on behalf of the employee, acting as an advocate for the employee to identify options for effective accommodation, conferring with the employee’s medical professionals regarding supporting information and documentation, advising the employee on legal issues that can arise during the process and challenging any failure to provide effective accommodation.

Reasonable accommodation for Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act (ADAAA)-covered medical conditions is mandatory, and can only be denied in specific, legally-cognizable circumstances.   Despite federal agencies having an affirmative duty to provide reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities, many federal supervisors lack the proper training or knowledge necessary to meet this obligation. The unfortunate result is that many individuals with disabilities go without effective accommodation to the detriment of their health. Many others find themselves facing an uphill battle to maintain their otherwise positive performance history and disciplinary record when lack of accommodation impacts their on-the-job performance.

Your accommodation needs should not cause you to face overly broad and intrusive medical inquiries, harassment, or allegations of poor performance and leave-abuse.  Similarly, the process of filing a reasonable accommodation request is protected EEO activity, and you are shielded from adverse treatment from agency management officials in retaliation for protected activities pursuant to the anti-retaliation statutes.

Our attorneys have a successful history in reasonable accommodation cases, from securing effective accommodations for our clients to negotiating favorable settlement agreements.  Contact an attorney today to learn more about your rights and responsibilities in seeking reasonable accommodation.

THE EQUAL PAY ACT

The Equal Pay Act (EPA) requires that federal agencies pay male and female employees the same for substantially similar work.

As applied to the federal government, the EEOC has held that the federal government’s classification system is not a defense to an Equal Pay Act claim. In other words, if a female employee who is a GS-12 is performing substantially similar work as a male employee who is a GS-13, the federal government cannot hide behind its classification system to justify this difference in pay. It is also illegal for the federal government to downgrade the male employee to GS-12 to correct its violation of the Equal Pay Act.

The relief available to federal employees under the EPA is somewhat different than the relief available under Title VII (for example, compensatory damages are not allowable, but liquidated damages may be available). In some cases, a federal agency might be violating both the EPA and Title VII by failing to pay women and men equally for the same work. The attorneys at The Federal Practice Group can advise you on what your rights may be in any particular circumstance.

THE AGE DISCRIMINATION IN EMPLOYMENT ACT

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits federal agencies from discriminating against federal employees on the basis of age and prohibits retaliation/reprisal for participation in protected activity. Unlike other anti-discrimination statutes, the relief available to federal employees suffering age discrimination may be limited due to specific language Congress included in the statute. Nevertheless, discrimination against federal employees over the age of 40 is illegal, and remidies including back pay are available.

DO YOU NEED A RELIABLE AND EXPERIENCED EEOC HEARING LAWYER?

If you believe you are experiencing discrimination or a hostile work environment on any of these protected basis, contact The Federal Practice Group for a consultation.

If you are able to prove that your federal agency is violating one of these anti-discrimination statutes, then you may be entitled to relief including compensatory damages, equitable relief, or reimbursement of attorney’s fees.


CONTACT THE FEDERAL PRACTICE GROUP

The proven attorneys at The Federal Practice Group have over a century of combined experience successfully assisting federal employees through the most difficult periods of their lives and careers.

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