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When Federal Agencies Dismiss Discrimination Claims Incorrectly

Federal employees and job applicants are protected from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy status, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. Employees are further protected from retaliation for engaging in protected behaviors, such as filing a discrimination complaint. When a victim of discrimination files a claim with a federal agency, that claim may be dismissed for several reasons. After such a dismissal, the employee or applicant can file an appeal with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

If the federal agency did its job properly, the EEOC would uphold the dismissal. Sadly, this is not the case roughly one-third of the time. A recent study looked into the most common situations where federal agencies get these decisions wrong. The report is intended to help federal agencies reduce the number of situations where they turn away people with valid claims and force them to go through the appeals process.

The report stated that 81 percent of incorrectly dismissed discrimination cases were thrown out for failure to state a claim or failure to meet the statute of limitations. The dismissals for failure to state a claim make up the bulk of mistakes by federal agencies. In the time period analyzed, 2008-2012, this type of dismissal made up 57 percent of the overturned decisions.

Employment discrimination can be subtle and complex. Its victims are often put in a terrible position by employers who seem to have all the power. Dismissing a valid claim adds several layers of complication for workers who have already been victimized. Hopefully, with greater understanding of the most common errors, federal agencies can do a better job of evaluating discrimination claims going forward.

Source: Business Insurance, "Federal agencies make common errors in discrimination claim filings: EEOC" by Judy Greenwald, 15 September 2014

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