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Initiating the Hearings Process

When the federal agency against which you have filed an EEO complaint completes its investigation, the agency will provide a notice giving you two choices:  (1) request a hearing before an EEOC Administrative Judge; or (2) ask the agency to issue a decision addressing whether discrimination occurred (also known as a Final Decision).  Regardless of the choice you make, if you disagree with all or part of the agency's decision (with or without a hearing), you can appeal the decision to EEOC or challenge it in federal court.

Requesting a Hearing

If you ask for an EEOC Administrative Judge to review your case, you must make your request in writing within 30 days of the date you receive notice from the agency about your right to request a hearing.  Normally, the agency will send you this notice as soon as it has finished its investigation.  However, if more than 180 days have passed since you filed your complaint and the agency still has not finished its investigation, you have the right to request a hearing, and the agency is supposed to notify you of this righ.

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.

Online Hearing Requests

Complainants now have the ability to file their hearing requests online.  The EEOC Public Portal is a secure, web-based application that allows individuals with discrimination complaints against the government to:

  • Create an account.
  • Request a hearing - have a formal EEO complaint reviewed by an Administrative Judge.
  • Identify a representative and provide their contact information.
  • Submit and receive documents supporting their hearing request.

To file your hearing request using the Public Portal.

After a 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 investigative file.  We will also ask the agency to send a copy of the investigative file to you, if the agency hasn't done so already.  Your case will then be assigned to an EEOC Administrative Judge.

Amending or Filing More than One Complaint

If you want to amend an existing complaint, or if you need to consolidate existing complaints, you need to contact the Administrative Judge assigned to your case.

At the Initial Conference and Hearing

At the Initial Conference, you and other witnesses approved by the Administrative Judge will tell the Judge what happened and you can present documentary evidence. You will be able to ask questions of the witnesses, and the Administrative Judge may also ask questions.  If after evaluating the evidence presented the Administrative Judge determines a formal hearing is necessary, he/she will inform the parties about the process as well as 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.

After the Hearing Process is Completed

The Administrative Judge will send you a decision either through the online portal or through the mail and order any relief.  The Administrative Judge will send both you and the agency a copy of the decision and other appropriate documents from the hearing process.

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 court, and the deadline for filing both an appeal and 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 should 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  

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.

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 not 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.

Filing a Lawsuit

You also have the right to file a lawsuit any time 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.