How did I get here?
You barely remember the day that it all started. It was a blur. You couldn’t believe it. You spoke up, and then you waited. For someone else to take action. For someone to resolve the problem. For someone else to decide your fate. A supervisor. Human Resources. A judge. But you’re still right here in the same place, and there’s no resolution in sight.
You’ve been a federal employee for years. You know what you do, and you do it well. No one should be treated this way. It’s insulting. It’s demeaning. It’s horrific. It’s illegal. Isn’t it?
Contact an EEO counselor, file a formal complaint, respond to questions from an investigator and then file a rebuttal. And that’s just the beginning. Then you read some posts online. You read some cases. You may have found the EEOC’s digest online (it’s right here, if you haven’t come across it yet).
But none of this resolves the issue. You’re still right where you started. Hopefully you’re not any worse off. How does this start moving forward?
The EEO system is waiting for you.
The federal-sector EEO system depends on you. What actions you take. What facts you choose to place at issue in your complaint. The witnesses you want interviewed. It’s all up to you.
The Agency? Not so much. Does the Agency have to show that discrimination didn’t occur? Not usually. The law assumes that nothing illegal occurred. Showing that discrimination is afoot is the employee’s responsibility.
A “prima facie” case is just the start. Then you have to show that the supposedly “legitimate” explanation for what happened isn’t true. How do you do that?
Like almost everything else in the law, it depends. It’s entirely circumstantial. You have to demonstrate what is going on in someone else’s mind. The right evidence is the evidence may be something you never considered.
There is no simple guide. That’s because every situation is so intricate, you can’t make a guide that fits every situation. (Actually, that’s why there are several guides, such as Gilbert, Hadley, and Broida, that run in the thousands of pages).
Because there is no easy answer, you try to read as much as you can, you look online for guidance, you write a response, and you hope it works. Or you attend the phone hearing with the judge. Sometimes it sounds like he is just talking with the agency lawyer. You feel less like a victim and more just ignored.
Ready to Move Forward?
Start here. Take control.
The clock is running, deadlines are approaching. You need to respond to an investigator. You need to collect documents. You need to draft discovery responses. You need to respond to summary judgment. Where to begin? Start getting the directions you need.
I am here to help. I have been in the trenches with federal employees for a decade. Race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, age, disability discrimination, retaliation (and more). Motions for summary judgement, motions to amend, discovery requests, appeals, not to mention complaints and investigations. Everyone who works in this area long enough has done all that. I am no exception.
What you need is help for you. Help is not “sue everyone.” Sometimes help is pointing out something new, or retaliation. Oftentimes it’s delving deeper into an interaction, where it went, what happened afterward. Sometimes it saying, “file this.” Sometimes it’s saying “Proving that is going to take a lot of footwork.”
Sometimes help is letting you know that it might be time to walk away. If you need to hear it, if it’s the reality of your situation, I won’t hesitate to tell you that. I promise you that.
Getting moving in the right direction.
Have you ever run towards the east hoping to see the sunset? Maybe a little less dramatically, have you ever changed lanes in the middle of a traffic jam only to be passed by the guy who was behind you? Wouldn’t you like to know ahead of time what you can do now to change the outcome that’s coming up?
We make choices every day about what direction to go in or which line to get in. Knowing when to get off the highway and take the backroad can save us hours of frustration. The EEO process is no different. Lawyers help us with that.
Knowing what to do when, and how to do it is what lawyers in this field do. That’s what we are trained for.
But lawyers are scary. Not fangs and a cape scary. Scary because the law is scary. It’s opaque. Lawyers speak the same odd Latin dialect as the judge. “Sua sponte,” “per se,” “ex parte.” They use confusing terms like “summary judgment.” (It’s kind of like ‘summary execution,’ but I’m guessing that’s not making you feeling any better).
Part of my job is to make this less scary. To interpret what the lawyers and judges are saying for you and put it into plain language. You should never be confused by the choices you have.
What about the bumps in the road?
Even if you do everything right and by the books, your supervisor may never get over your complaint. This person has often the greatest direct control over your life, and you are now at odds. You went from “team player” to “unsure,” or perhaps even “persona non grata.”
You may have noticed the changes. A slight criticism here, an unduly hostile tone there. Then, without warning, you’re in it deeper. It can feel like a war zone, and you’re expected to put up with it?
Handling these moments means making a choice. How are you going to respond? Are you going to file a complaint? Are you going to settle and move on? What can you get in a settlement? How can you get leverage to get what you really want?
Making choices starts with knowing your options. Having someone there to answer questions, show you options, and provide you experienced insight is invaluable.
Getting the right resolution for you.
The emphasis should be on you. Do your driving directions begin from someone else’s house? Do you buy “one size fits all” jeans? Do you get the same prescription from your doctor as the person who was in the room before you? Of course not.
There isn’t a simple prescription for proving discrimination. And even if the facts were exactly the same, the rest of your life is different. Maybe it’s a supervisor you can’t work with anymore. Money can’t resolve that.
Maybe it’s litigation. Maybe it’s settlement. Know your choices and the direction you’re heading before you go. Forewarned is forearmed.
How much will this cost?
I break down my agreements into flat-fee parts. I base the fee on the complexity of the work, in consultation with you about what you are seeking to achieve. This means that if it’s going to cost $1000, it only costs $1000.
No huge bills for hours you weren’t expecting. That way you’re not at the mercy and uncertainty of never-ending hourly billing.