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EEOC Attorney Honor Program

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Overview

The EEOC’s Honor Attorney Program was inaugurated in 2000 with the purpose of recruiting the most qualified entry-level attorneys and training them for highly skilled legal work within the agency. Attorneys hired through the Honor Program are assigned to the Commission offices that are designated to participate in the Program that year. The attorneys who are selected for the Honor Program are assigned to challenging positions, offering valuable legal experience and substantial individual responsibility. In an effort to broaden the attorney’s legal experience, each Honor Program attorney is given the opportunity to rotate or “detail” into different assignments both within the EEOC and possibly with other government agencies. In addition, Honor Program attorneys receive extensive training to ensure their legal proficiency and expertise in particular practice areas.

The Honor Attorney Program has enjoyed tremendous success in the recruitment and hiring of entry-level attorneys into the EEOC. Honor Program attorneys have come from all over the country; some directly from law school, and others from judicial clerkships. They have entered employment as Trial Attorneys or Administrative Judges in the EEOC's District Offices, in such locations as New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Miami. Other selectees work as Attorney-Advisors in our Headquarters in Washington, D.C., drafting appellate briefs in the Office of General Counsel; as litigators in the Office of Legal Counsel; and as appellate decision-writers on appeals filed with the Office of Federal Operations.

Length of Appointment

Unlike internship and clerkship programs, attorneys hired through the Honor Program are not temporary employees. Honor Program attorneys are hired for permanent attorney positions throughout the Commission. By accepting a position with the Commission through the Honor Program, attorneys agree to make a commitment to remain with the Commission for at least three years. During that three-year period, Honor Program attorneys will function as a permanent component of the office they were assigned to, the same as other employees in the same or similar positions as the Honor Program attorney.

Eligibility and Factors Taken into Consideration

The Honor Program is highly competitive. The Commission receives hundreds of applicants for each position offered each year. These applicants come from a broad and diverse background. They include third-year law students, judicial law clerks and graduate law students. The Honor Program is one of the few ways in which the EEOC hires recent graduates.

Prior selections for the Honor Program have been based on many factors including: academic achievement; law review or other publication work; relevant law courses; extracurricular activities such as moot court competition, legal aid or legal clinic experience; and summer and/or part-time employment. Particular emphasis in the review of applications has been given to those applicants who have demonstrated leadership skills and who have shown an interest in pursuing civil rights and labor and employment law issues, and who have demonstrated a dedication to public service.

You are eligible to apply to the 2012 Honor Program, IF you meet the following requirements:

  • you are a third-year law student who will complete your studies in the winter of 2011 or in the spring/summer of 2012; OR
  • you are a full-time graduate law student expected to graduate in spring/summer of 2012. Your graduate study must have immediately followed law school graduation with no significant post-J.D. employment and must be full-time for the duration of study; OR
  • you will be a Judicial Law Clerk prior to the application deadline and will complete your clerkship prior to September 30, 2012. Your clerkship must be your first significant legal employment following your graduation and, generally, must begin no later than seven months post-J.D. You may serve in a single one or two-year clerkship or in two consecutive one-year clerkships. Your clerkship may be no more than two years in duration; AND,
  • you are a U.S. citizen.

Additionally, all attorneys selected for the Program are required to pass a bar examination within 14 months of the commencement of their employment and be duly licensed to practice as an attorney in a U.S. state, territory, or the District of Columbia.

Applying to the Program

Please check back to this site for up to date information regarding when the application will be available, the application due date, where to submit your application, and what materials must be submitted with your application.

Interviews

The EEOC interviews candidates for the Honor Program at our Headquarters in Washington, DC or in one of our District Offices located throughout the country. Those candidates selected for interviews will each be apprised of the time, date and location of the interview. Every effort will be made to interview candidates within their geographic vicinity. However, those applicants outside of the geographic vicinity of an EEOC office must make their own travel arrangements for a personal interview, and the candidate is responsible for expenses incurred while traveling to the interview. Otherwise, the interview may be conducted by telephone or by video conference.

The EEOC office participating in the Honor Program will conduct only one round of interviews. There are no “call back” interviews. Attorneys from within that office interview candidates for the Honor Program. Since interviewers frequently change because of scheduling conflicts, we cannot provide the names of individual interviewers. If you are not selected for an interview, you are no longer under consideration for employment.

Offers

Candidates selected to receive an offer of employment will be notified by telephone or email by the hiring office of the Office of Human Resources.

Compensation

Honor Program attorneys’ salaries will depend upon the attorney’s prior experience and will be determined by the Office of Human Resources and the hiring office. Most newly graduating law students will be hired as GS-11 Law Clerks until they are admitted to the bar. Once bar membership is established, conversion to a GS-11 General Attorney classification will be processed.

Those selectees who have judicial law clerk experience will be eligible for hiring at the GS-12 or GS-13 level, depending upon how many years they served as law clerks. Again, the final determination is made by the Office of Human Resources and the hiring office.

Annual performance appraisals are conducted for all attorneys employed by the EEOC. Honor Program attorneys are eligible for promotion after passing the bar and serving the minimum time-in-grade at the next lower level. The minimum time-in-grade at entry levels are:

  • GS-11 to GS-12 - 1 year
  • GS-12 to GS-13 - 1 year
  • GS-13 to GS-14 - 1 year

Please note that federal government salaries vary by geographical location. You may consult the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Salary Table to obtain specific salary information for a particular geographical location. The OPM Salary Table is available in public libraries or on the Internet at http://www.opm.gov.

Conditions of Employment

Prior to finalizing your appointment as an Honor Program attorney, the EEOC requires satisfactory completion of a background investigation.

EEOC Office Descriptions

While the available Honor Attorney Program positions vary each year, below is a description of each EEOC office to better help you in better determine which available position you would like to apply for.

Office of Federal Operations - Washington, D.C.

The Office of Federal Operations has responsibility for adjudicating appeals of equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaints brought by employees and applicants for employment through the federal government. One major components of the Office is the Appellate Review Program (ARP). The ARP, on the behalf of the Commission, adjudicates appeals of federal agency decisions, either following a hearing or when agency decisions are issued without a hearing. ARP’s principal function is preparing Commission decisions on those appeals. The regulations provide for appeals from a range of actions including agency decisions on individual and class complaints, grievances raising discrimination issues, review of appellate decisions of the Merit System Protection Board concerning discrimination issues, and decisions on claims of breach of settlement agreements.

Attorneys conduct thorough reviews of agency administrative complaint files, as well as all appeal statements and briefs submitted by the parties, and conduct thorough research of prior Commission decisions and federal court decisions. Attorneys are responsible for drafting decisions on the appeals. Through the process of writing decisions, attorney gain a deep understanding of various issues under the federal employment discrimination laws as well as the applicable EEOC policy. Attorneys have autonomy in their work while simultaneously receiving support and guidance from supervisors. There are also opportunities to be involved in special research and training projects. Honor attorneys have the option of writing scholarly legal research articles to be published in the EEOC Digest on complex issues at the forefront of federal sector employment discrimination law.

Office of Legal Counsel - Washington, D.C.

The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) is responsible for providing legal advice and counsel to the Chair, the Commission, and EEOC headquarters and field offices. As the chief legal advisor to the Chair and Commission, OLC implements the Commission's responsibilities for coordination with other federal civil rights and equal employment opportunity programs. OLC develops policies, guidance and procedures for Commission approval that interpret and implement EEOC's statutory authorities. OLC also represents the Commission in litigation in which the Commission is a defendant and provides advice on internal administrative and operational legal issues.

• Advice and External Litigation Division (AELD)

AELD provides legal guidance to the Commission on a variety of matters and represents the Commission in lawsuits filed against the agency by parties outside the agency. The litigation component consists most commonly of lawsuits filed by former charging parties, whose discrimination charges were dismissed by one of the agency’s field offices. An attorney defending these lawsuits is responsible for managing all aspects of the case, including the filing of motions to dismiss and/or motions for summary judgment. Cases also arises when individuals who have sought information under FOIA are dissatisfied with the agency’s responses.

The “advice” component of AELD includes a variety of things. For example, ethical questions are directed to AELD. AELD is also responsible for approving outside employment requests and travel reimbursements, and for reviewing financial disclosure forms to ensure that there no conflicts of interest exist. Attorneys travel to the various field offices to do ethics training as mandated by the Office of Government Ethics. Finally, attorneys review updated Commission rules and regulations and work on the publication of various regulations.

• Coordination and Guidance Services

The Coordination and Guidance Services side of OLC is responsible for creating policy and guidance documents and generally advising the public on how to comply with Title VII, the ADA, the ADEA, and the Equal Pay Act. For example, when the Supreme Court issues a decision on one of the above named statutes, one of the teams publishes “talking points” to explain how the Commission interprets the decision. Attorneys also review appeals from the Office of Federal Operations for legal sufficiency.

Office of General Counsel - District Offices and Headquarters

The Office of General Counsel (OGC) is responsible for affirmative litigation in federal and state courts under four federal employment discrimination statutes.

• Internal Litigation Division

Attorneys in OGC’s Internal Litigation Division (ILD) defend the EEOC against actions brought against agency by EEOC employees. These actions typically arise in three different situations. The first situation occurs when an EEOC employees alleges that s/he has been discriminated against based on a reason made unlawful by Title VII, the ADEA, the Equal Pay Act or the Rehabilitation Act. When an employee requests a hearing before an administrative judge, ILD attorneys become involved. The second situation arises when an EEOC employee files an appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB or Board) based on matters that are within the Board’s jurisdiction, such as suspensions for 15 days or more and removals from federal service. These appeals are heard by MSPB administrative judges. The third situation occurs when unions file grievances on behalf of their bargaining unit members. If the grievance is not solved at any one of three steps in the grievance process and the union elects to take the grievance to arbitration, attorneys defend the Agency’s position in front of arbitrators who are selected from a pool associated with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS).

Attorneys working in ILD are responsible for preparing all aspects of their cases in any of the above forums by drafting a variety of pleadings including motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgment, witness lists and expected testimony and interrogatories. Attorneys are also expected to compile documents to be used as exhibits at hearing, prepare witnesses, participate in settlement negotiations and pre-hearing conferences, interview witnesses, conduct depositions, and manage all other aspects of the day to day flow of the case load. Attorneys spend a significant amount of time on the phone and conversing face to face with the people associated with the case. Travel is often involved.

• Appellate Services (Headquarters)

As an attorney in the appellate section of OGC, an attorney’s primary duties are evaluating cases for appeal or for participation as an amicus curiae; drafting appellate briefs; and arguing cases in the federal circuits. When an attorney is assigned a Commission case which was lost in the district court, s/he drafts a recommendation stating whether or not the Commission should appeal the case. If the Commission chooses to appeal, the attorney is responsible for writing the brief and, if there is an oral argument, arguing the matter in court. Approximately half of the work done in appellate is amicus work, therefore attorneys also evaluate district court cases for possible amicus participation. Attorneys also assist with the preparation of an annual update on recent developments in employment law and review Department of Justice briefs to determine whether the agency’s positions taken on appeal conflict with the view of the EEOC.

• Trial Attorneys (District Offices)

EEOC's trial court litigation, almost all of which is in federal district courts, is conducted by trial attorneys assigned to field offices throughout the United States. In addition to filing and litigating employment discrimination suits, trial attorneys provide advice and other assistance to agency staff responsible for investigating and resolving administrative claims of employment discrimination filed by members of the public.

Soon after a charge is filed, a charge may be identified as one that the agency may have an interest in litigating. In such a case, a trial attorney is assigned to the charge and works with the investigator to ensure that Legal has all the information needed for litigation. For example, after investigating a charge, an investigator may think that Legal has an interest in litigation. The trial attorney will evaluate the charge and prepare a memorandum outlining the reasons that Legal may or may not have an interest in litigating the charge. Enforcement refers some charges that have been identified as cause charges and failed conciliation to Legal for litigation preparation. A trial attorney will then write a memorandum that will go to Headquarters recommending litigation. After Headquarters approves litigation, a charge is assigned to a trial attorney who reviews the file, talks to the Charging Party, and may talk to witnesses. The trial attorney will then write a memo to Headquarters that includes the nature of the claims EEOC intends to bring, the relevant facts, a legal analysis of the claims, and a discussion of potential defenses.

Most of an attorney’s time is spent on cases that are in litigation. Trial attorneys focus much of their time on discovery. The attorney’s duties in this respect include: obtaining additional information from the defendant through interrogatories and document requests, identifying and interviewing class members in class cases, identifying and interviewing witnesses, and taking depositions. Most of a trial attorney’s time is spent on formal and informal discovery. Trial attorneys also argue motions and appear for status hearings.

Although only a few charges that come into the office are formally assigned to a trial attorney, trial attorneys also advise investigators regarding other charges. Investigators may want an attorney’s advice about the merits of a particular charge, the language of a Letter of Determination, or conciliation.

Office of Field Programs - District Offices

Administrative judges (AJs) provide the first opportunity for federal sector complainants to have their cases adjudicated by the Commission. AJs in the Washington Field Office, for example, handle dockets of approximately 75 cases and oversee all aspects of the adjudication process. The process is comprised of several stages, and the AJ performs different functions at each stage. These include, at the outset, ruling on a variety of motions, including motions to compel discovery and motions to amend complaints. After discovery has been completed, the AJ may conclude that no material facts are in genuine dispute and issue a decision granting summary judgment. Alternatively, if the AJ determines that a hearing is appropriate, then s/he proceeds to schedule a hearing and hold a prehearing conference with the parties at which s/he rules on what witnesses will testify, explores the possibility of settlement, and addresses any other outstanding matters. In presiding at the hearing, the AJ’s primary responsibilities are to ensure order and make evidentiary rulings regarding both proposed exhibits and witness testimony. Following the hearing, the AJ issues a decision addressing whether the complainant has established discrimination and, if so, the relief to which the complainant is entitled.

The day-to-day duties of an AJ are best characterized as a balancing act between ensuring that the process keeps moving at the early stages and resolving cases at the later stages. Some days are devoted primarily to decision-writing, while others are more varied and might involve ruling on motions, holding conferences with parties, issuing orders, and reviewing case files. Hearings are held approximately two or three times a month, and vary in length from one day to a week or longer. Although AJs have the freedom to set their own schedule, they also need to exhibit flexibility as situations will arise that require immediate attention, such as motions that necessitate expedited rulings.