Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

You are here: ARS Home / About Us / ODEO / Notification of Complainant's Rights, Duties, and Responsibilities

Related Topics

Notification of Complainant's Rights, Duties, and Responsibilities
headline bar

 Office of Outreach, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity (ODEO)

The EEO Informal Complaint Processing System covers individual and class complaints of discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual harassment), national origin, age, physical and/or mental disability, reprisal for previous EEO related activity, marital status, and/or sexual orientation.

Age is a factor only if the complainant is at least 40 years old.

A person with disability is one who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.

Any employee or applicant for employment may file a complaint. Contact with an EEO Counselor must be within 45 days of the date of the matter alleged to be discriminatory. No reprisals may be taken against a complainant or a complainant's representative. All individuals complaining to and/or participating in the EEO Counseling process are entitled to confidentiality.

Complainants have the right to:
• Receive in writing, 30 calendar days after the counseling contact, a notice terminating counseling if the complaint is not resolved; unless the complainant agrees in writing with the Counselor to postpone the final interview and extend the counseling period for an additional period of no more than 60 calendar days;

• Anonymity during the counseling stage of the informal complaint process, unless waived. This right is relinquished when a formal complaint is filed;

• Representation throughout the complaint process including the counseling stage. Complainants may have a representative of their choice at any stage of the complaint process, provided their choice does not result in a conflict of interest or conflict of position. The complainant must immediately inform their EEO Counselor of their choice of representative, if one is obtained;

• File a formal complaint within 15 calendar days of receipt of the Counselor notice of the right to file a formal complaint in the event she or he wishes to do so at the conclusion of counseling;

• Elect between a negotiated grievance procedure and the EEO complaint procedure. Where an agency is covered by 5 U.S.C. 7121 (d) and where the negotiated procedure and the statue covers the alleged discrimination, the aggrieved individual would be required to elect either 1) the statutory procedure for discrimination (the internal agency EEO process) or 2) the negotiated grievance procedure, but not both;

• Elect to file an EEO complaint or appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board in the event that the matter at issue is appealable to the MSPB, i.e., the matter is a mixed case appeal.

• The complainant has 20 calendar days from the alleged discriminatory act to file a mixed case appeal with the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) or 15 calendar days from the date of receipt of an EEO Counselor notice of final interview/right to file a formal complaint or 30 calendar days after the initial EEO Counselor contact to file a formal mixed case EEO complaint. Complainant may not file both a MSPB appeal and an EEO complaint on the same matter. The process selected first is deemed the elected process;

• Request hearing before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Administrative Judge in a non-mixed case 180 days after initial filing of the formal complaint or after completion of the investigative stage, whichever comes first;

• Go to U.S. District Court 180 days after filing a formal EEO complaint or 180 days after filing an appeal;

• File a notice on intent to sue when AGE is alleged as a basis for discrimination and the right to file a lawsuit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) instead of an administrative complaint of age discrimination, pursuant to 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1614.201 (a);

• Go directly to U.S. District Court on claims of SEX BASED WAGE discrimination under the Equal Pay Act. Such claims are also cognizable under Title VII;

• A reasonable amount of official time in preparing and presenting their complaint of alleged discrimination. Such official time must be requested in advance from the appropriate supervisor; and

• Present and pursue their complaint free from restraint, interference, coercion, harassment, and reprisal.

Complainants have the duty to:
• Mitigate damages, e.g., interim earnings or amounts which could be earned by the individual with reasonable diligence generally must be deducted from an award of back pay; and

• Keep the Agency and EEOC informed of current mailing address and phone numbers, and to serve copies of the appeal papers on the Agency.

Complainants have the responsibility to:
• Work with the Agency to reasonably resolve the matter of concern brought to the EEO Counselor's attention;

• Fully cooperate with the presentation of information (including the scheduling of meetings or conferences, responding to correspondence, and providing requested material or information) in the processing of their complaint;

• Comply with all time limits in the EEO process unless circumstances outside their control make it impossible to do so. If additional time is required at any stage, it should be requested in advance from an appropriate official. (The EEO Counselor will advise concerning the identity of the appropriate official to grant an extension of time limits); and

• Notify your EEO Counselor at the Civil Rights Staff of any questions or concerns about the Counseling process at (202) 720-3410 or (800) 340-4289.

Overview of Federal Sector Complaint Processing
Under 29 C.F.R. Part 1614


Last Modified: 1/15/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page