As a federal employee, it is important to understand your rights when it comes to EEO violations and the process for bringing an EEO complaint.

If you are facing workplace discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, you have a right to file an EEO complaint.

The EEO complaint process typically involves three steps:

  1. EEO Counseling;
  2. The Formal Complaint;
  3. The EEOC hearing.

The first step in the EEO complaint process is known as “EEO counseling” (also sometimes referred to as the “informal complaint”). Here’s a guide to help you navigate this process.

Step-by-Step Guide to Initiating EEO Counseling

1. Identify the Issue

  • Recognize and document the discriminatory act or behavior.
  • Federal law prohibits discrimination and harassment based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, and genetic information.
  • Federal law also prohibits management from retaliating against you for asserting your EEO rights or those of your co-workers.
  • If you experience or witness an EEO violation, document it to make a record of what happened.

2. Timely Contact:

  • Contact your agency’s EEO office within 45 calendar days of the discriminatory act or, if it is a recurring issue, within 45 days of the latest occurrence.
  • This timeframe is crucial. Missing this window can impact the viability of your complaint.

3. Request Counseling:

  • When you contact the EEO office, make it clear that you are requesting EEO counseling.
  • Many agencies have multiple processes for addressing EEO violations, which can be confusing. The way to ensure your complaint is processed properly is to clearly request “EEO counseling.”
  • This request can typically be made in writing, via email, or through a formal submission on the agency’s EEO portal.

4. Initial Interview:

  • You will be assigned an EEO Counselor.
  • The EEO Counselor will schedule an initial interview to discuss your complaint.
  • During this meeting, you will be asked to provide detailed information about the alleged discrimination or retaliation, including dates, times, involved parties, and any supporting evidence you have.

5. Counselor’s Role:

  • The EEO Counselor acts as a neutral party whose role is to facilitate a resolution between you and the agency.
  • They will not act as an advocate but will help clarify the issues and explore potential resolutions.

6. Resolution Attempts:

  • The EEO Counselor will attempt to resolve the issue informally within a 30-day counseling period, which can be extended by an additional 60 days if you and the agency agree.
  • The EEO Counselor may also suggest a mediation, where you will meet with management or the person who discriminated against you to discuss possible resolutions.
  • Possible resolutions could include a transfer, a reassignment, changes in workplace policies, or other actions to address your specific complaint.

7. Counseling Report:

  • If the issue is not resolved informally, the Counselor will provide you with a written report detailing the counseling activities.
  • This report is a necessary document for proceeding to the formal complaint stage if needed.

8. Notice of Right to File a Formal Complaint:

  • Along with the counseling report, you will receive a written “Notice of Right to File a Formal Complaint.”
  • This notice gives you the option to file a formal EEO complaint if the informal resolution attempts are unsuccessful.

9. Formal Complaint Option:

  • If you decide to file a formal complaint, you must do so within 15 calendar days of receiving the notice.
  • The formal complaint process is more structured and involves an internal investigation by the agency.

Importance of Documentation and Legal Guidance

Throughout the EEO counseling process, it is important to maintain detailed records of all communications, meetings, and any resolutions proposed or agreed upon.

Additionally, seeking advice from an experienced federal employment attorney can provide valuable guidance and ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process.

The attorneys of Bramnick Creed, LLC have a deep knowledge of federal employment law and extensive experience in representing federal employees. For more information about our federal employment practice or to contact us, go to our website at or contact Attorney Joe Creed at (301) 945-7800 or