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Federal HR pros, take note: Bias complainers may contact any EEO officer to press claims

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in Employment Law,HR Management,Human Resources

Federal employees have special rules they have to follow in order to sue their employers for discrimination. One of these requirements is to contact an Equal Employment Opportunity “counselor” within 45 days of the alleged discriminatory act in order to begin the EEO process.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has concluded that employees don’t have to contact the individual their employer has designated as the EEO counselor, but can contact anyone who is directly involved in the equal opportunity process.

Recent case: Vicky Kraus worked at the Presidio as a maintenance inspector. Kraus is a black woman who says she has several disabilities, including dyslexia, emotional distress, anxiety, depression, back problems and brain damage caused by lead poisoning.

Kraus alleged that she had been denied access to an employer-sponsored carpool, which was dominated by males. She made many other allegations, including a claim that she had been unfairly reviewed, causing her to lose out on a pay increase.

When Kraus sued, the trial court dismissed her case, concluding she hadn’t contacted the person officially designated as her EEO counselor within 45 days of each allegedly discriminatory action. But Kraus insisted she had.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that contacting any EEO officer was enough to meet the requirement. It said federal employees can contact any “agency official logically connected with the EEO process” to meet the requirement. (Kraus v. Presidio Trust, No. 07-17177, 9th Cir., 2009)

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