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Federal agencies make common errors in discrimination claim filings: EEOC

Posted On: Sep. 15, 2014 12:00 AM CST

A total of 81% of discrimination cases dismissed by federal agencies and subsequently overturned on appeal to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission involve either failure to state a claim or failure to comply with regulatory time limitations, the agency said Monday in a report.

Of the appellate decisions issued each year by the EEOC on federal agency dismissals, about one-third are reversed, with the complaints being remanded by the EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations to the agencies for investigation, according to the report, “Preserving Access to the Legal System: Common Errors by Federal Agencies in Dismissing Complaints of Discrimination on Procedural Grounds.”

“Preservation of access to the legal system is one of the commission’s critical priorities,” said Carlton Hadden, director of the OFO. “In support of that goal, the EEOC examined its appellate decisions, focusing on procedural dismissals by federal agencies of (equal employment opportunity) discrimination complaints. Our report analyzed decisions which resulted in a reversal of dismissals, to identify any common errors. By doing so, we hope to reduce the number of incorrect procedural dismissals by federal agencies.”

The report studied the most common errors made by agencies in issuing procedural dismissals that resulted in reversal of appeal, covering all agencies with 25 or more appellate decisions for fiscal years 2008-2012.

The agency found that claims were incorrectly dismissed for failure to state a claim 57% of the time. Some of the specific reasons involved fragmentation, where complainants’ claims were incorrectly broken up during the complaint processing; the proper standard for retaliation claims; improper decision on the merits; and standing, which involves whether the worker was a federal employee or contractor.

Twenty-four percent of the time, the incorrect dismissal involved failure to comply with applicable regulatory time limits, including the failure to meet the burden of proof with regard to when the complainant received the notice of the right to file a formal complaint, according to the report.