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Hearings

When the investigation is completed, the agency will give you a notice giving you two choices: either request a hearing before an EEOC Administrative Judge or ask the agency to issue a decision as to whether discrimination occurred. If you ask the agency to issue a decision and no discrimination is found, or if you disagree with some part of the decision, you can appeal the decision to EEOC or challenge it in federal district court.

Requesting a hearing

If you want to ask for a hearing, you must make your request in writing within 30 days from the day you receive notice from the agency about your hearing rights. The agency will send you this notice as soon as it has finished its investigation. If more than 180 days have passed since you filed your complaint and the agency still has not finished its investigation, you can ask for a hearing anytime.

Filing a lawsuit

You also have the right to file a lawsuit anytime after the 180-day investigation period has passed, even if your complaint is before an EEOC Administrative Judge. Keep in mind, though, once you file a lawsuit, the EEOC will close your complaint and take no further action.

Where to send the hearing request

You should send your hearing request to the EEOC field office that has jurisdiction over your complaint. The agency will tell you which EEOC office has jurisdiction when it sends you notice about your hearing rights or you can ask the agency’s EEO Office to give you this information. You must provide the agency’s EEO Office with a copy of your hearing request.

Procedure after hearing request is received

Once the appropriate EEOC field office receives your request, we will send you a docket number for your case and ask the agency to send us a copy of your file. We will also ask the agency to send a copy of the file to you, if the agency hasn’t done so already. Your case will then be assigned to an EEOC Administrative Judge.

Amending a complaint that is before an EEOC Admin Judge

If your complaint has already been sent to an EEOC Administrative Judge, you must contact the Administrative Judge to add any new events to your complaint.

Having more than one complaint

If one of your complaints has been referred to an EEOC Administrative Judge, you may ask the Administrative Judge to join other complaints of yours that you feel are related to the complaint that the Administrative Judge is hearing.

Overview on how a hearing works

The purpose of a hearing is to make a full and accurate record of the events you raised in your complaint. The EEOC Administrative Judge will then use this record to decide whether discrimination occurred. The Administrative Judge makes all decisions about how, when, and where the hearing will take place. Where the hearing is held will depend on where you live and where witnesses and records are located. Because the hearing is closed to the public, the Administrative Judge will only allow people who have knowledge of the events raised in your complaint to come to the hearing.

Steps to be taken in preparation for the hearing

Both you and the agency will have the opportunity to offer evidence that the Administrative Judge will use to decide the case. Before the hearing, both you and the agency will be able to ask for information and documents. If the Administrative Judge feels that evidence asked for by either party is not relevant, too difficult to provide, or has already been provided, he or she may deny the request or ask that the request be simplified. The Administrative Judge also may ask you or the agency to offer evidence that he or she feels is important to the case. This exchange of information before the hearing is to make sure the investigation of your complaint is complete.

At the hearing

At the hearing, you and other witnesses approved by the Administrative Judge will tell the Judge what happened. A court reporter will create a transcript of everything said at the hearing. You will be able to ask questions of the witnesses, and the Administrative Judge may also ask questions.

Scenario after a hearing is completed

After the hearing, the Administrative Judge will send you a decision and order any relief. The decision should be sent to you within 180 days from the day you asked for a hearing. The Administrative Judge will send both you and the agency a copy of the decision, along with the transcript of what was said at the hearing.

Once the EEOC Administrative Judge hands down a decision, the agency will then have 40 days to issue a final order, which either accepts or rejects the decision of the Administrative Judge. The agency’s final order will also contain information about your right to appeal to EEOC, your right to file a civil action in federal district court, and the deadline for filing both an appeal and a civil action. It also will tell you if the agency will grant the relief ordered by the Administrative Judge.

If the agency does not accept the decision or disagrees with any part of the decision of the Administrative Judge, the agency must file an appeal with the EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations.

If the agency doesn’t issue a final order in 40 days, the Administrative Judge’s decision becomes the agency’s final action in the complaint.

Remedies

Whenever discrimination is found, the EEOC Administrative Judge will order a remedy that puts the victim of discrimination in the same position (or nearly the same) that he or she would have been in had the discrimination never occurred. The types of relief will depend upon the discriminatory action and the effect it had on the victim. If you are not selected for a job or a promotion because of discrimination, for example, the remedy may include placement in the job, back pay and benefits you would have received, attorney’s fees if you had a lawyer, and a possible award of money for harm caused by the discrimination.

Reaching a voluntary settlement

If your complaint is already before an EEOC Administrative Judge, the Administrative Judge may ask you and the agency to try to settle your complaint and may give you and the agency time to work out the terms of a possible agreement on your own.

If you and the agency settle your complaint, it will be dismissed and no further action will be taken. Both you and the agency will be required to do what you promised to do in the agreement. You are not required to accept a settlement offer.

Agency does not comply with the settlement

If an agency does not comply in some way with the terms of your settlement agreement, notify the agency’s EEO Director. You have 30 days from the day you first learned of the agency’s failure to comply to give the EEO Director this notice.

The agency must respond to you in writing to try and settle the conflict. If the agency does not respond, or if you are not satisfied with the agency’s response, you can appeal to EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations for a decision about whether the agency has complied with the terms of the settlement agreement. You must file your appeal within 30 days from the day you receive the agency’s response or, if the agency does not respond, after 35 days have passed from the day you notified the agency’s EEO Director of the agency’s failure to comply. You must give the agency a copy of your appeal. The agency will then have 30 days to respond.

Dismissal of the complaint

If an EEOC Administrative Judge feels your complaint does not meet certain procedural requirements (for example, your claim was filed too late), the Administrative Judge can dismiss your complaint without a hearing.

If an Administrative Judge dismisses your complaint, you must wait for the agency to send you an order saying it agrees with the dismissal before you can appeal to EEOC. You have 30 days from the day you receive the agency’s dismissal to appeal.

In some cases, an Administrative Judge will dismiss only part of the complaint and continue processing the rest. In this situation, you must wait until the agency issues its final order on all of the claims in your complaint before appealing the partial dismissal.

When the agency does not follow its own final order

If the agency does not follow its final order, you should contact the agency’s EEO Director. You have 30 days from the day you became aware of the agency’s failure to follow its order to notify the agency’s EEO Director. If the agency does not respond after 35 days, you can file an appeal with EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations alleging noncompliance. If the agency does respond, you will have 30 days from the day you receive the agency’s response to file an appeal.

In most cases, agencies must give you the relief awarded within the time frame ordered by the Administrative Judge in his or her decision. If the agency fails to give relief within this time frame, you can either file a petition for enforcement with EEOC or file a lawsuit in court for enforcement of the award.

There is one exception to this general rule. An agency does not have to provide the relief awarded by an Administrative Judge while the agency's appeal of that award is being decided by EEOC. In such cases, if the agency loses its appeal, the agency will generally have to pay you interest on any money you are entitled to as part of the award.