Equal Employment Opportunity Complaint Process

The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) process is governed by the regulations, management directives, guidance, and case law of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), as well as applicable federal court cases.


The following time-lines and rules apply to federal workers who wish to file discrimination suits against the federal government (i.e., their federal agency).


Filing an Informal Complaint

If you believe you have been the victim of discrimination in your work or through the employment process (i.e., through the selection or pre-employment process), you must initiate contact with an EEO Counselor within 45 days of the alleged discrimination. The Counselor will advise you of your rights and will conduct an informal inquiry regarding your allegations.  During this time, the Counselor will obtain statements from witnesses and the named discriminating official(s) and will attempt to resolve the complaint.

If the allegations cannot be resolved at the counseling stage, the EEO Counselor will issue a Notice of Final Interview within 30 days of your initial contact. You will then have 15 days from receipt of Notice of Final Interview to decide whether you wish to file a formal

EEO complaint.

Filing a Formal Complaint

If you decide to file a formal complaint of discrimination against your agency, you must fill out the agency’s Complaint of Discrimination Form and send it to your EEO office or your agency’s Office of Civil Rights.  The agency will provide directions and will tell you where to send your complaint). You must file your complaint within 15 days of your receipt of the Notice of Final Interview.  As with all the time frames listed here, it is critical that you meet the deadline dates.  Failure to do so will likely result in dismissal of your EEO Complaint.

When you file your formal EEO complaint, you can include letters, affidavits, or any other supporting material with your complaint.  The more evidence you provide at this stage the better.  Your complaint must be specific and limited only to those matters that you previously discussed with the EEO Counselor. That is why it is critical that you raise all discrimination issues with the EEO Counselor. 

You will receive written acknowledgement of the EEO Office's receipt of your complaint. It will inform you of the date that your complaint was filed. This date will be used for calculating the length of time for processing all of the steps in the formal process.

If your complaint is accepted for processing, an impartial investigation will be ordered. Under EEOC regulations, federal agencies are required to conduct thorough and fair investigations.  Agencies are also required to complete the investigation within 180 days from the date you filed your formal complaint. Amended complaints will be investigated within the earlier of 180 days after the last amendment to the original complaint or 360 days after the filing of the original complaint.

After you receive the Report of Investigation (often referred to as the Investigative File), you have 30 days to request an EEOC hearing.  You must send the request to the EEOC and to your agency.  If you fail to request a hearing within 30 days, the agency will assume you want a final agency decision based on the record and will issue a decision based on its review of the investigative report and complaint file.

If 180 days have elapsed since you filed your formal EEO complaint, you are entitled to go directly to the EEOC to request a hearing before an Administrative Judge.  You do not have to wait for the agency to finish its investigation of your allegations.

If you request a hearing from EEOC, an Administrative Judge shall oversee discovery, conduct a hearing, and issue a decision on the complaint. If a finding of discrimination is made, the Administrative Judge will order an appropriate remedy. The judge must complete this process within 180 days of receipt of the complaint file from the your agency.

The agency, within 40 days of its receipt of the Administrative Judge's decision, must take final action on the complaint by issuing a final order notifying you whether or not it will fully implement the Administrative Judge's decision. The final order will also explain your appeal rights. If the agency does not issue a final order within the above stated time limit, the judge's decision will become the final action of the agency.

If you are not happy with the agency’s final order, you may appeal it to the EEOC within 30 days of receipt. You may file a civil action in U.S. District Court within 90 days of your receipt of the final order.

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