Ask The Lawyer

By Debra Roth

Q & A Session: Fighting Non-discrimination Based Unfair Treatment

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Q:

How can you fight unfair treatment when it is not discrimination based?

A:

You could raise the issue with your supervisor. If your supervisor’s actions are what you find to be unfair, your agency’s grievance process may cover a grievance of unfair treatment. You would need to review your agency’s grievance procedures to see if your specific matter is covered.

Also, depending on the unfair treatment, you could file a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) if it involves a violation of the Civil Service Reform Act (prohibited personnel practices), the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Hatch Act, or the Uniformed Services Employment & Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). For instance, OSC reviews prohibited personnel practices, including allegations that an agency official: (1) discriminated against an employee or applicant based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability (or handicapping condition), marital status, or political affiliation; (2) requested or considered a recommendation based on political connections or influence; (3) coerced political activity; (4) obstructed anyone from competing for employment; (5) influenced anyone to withdraw from competition in order to improve or injure the employment prospects of any person; (6) gave an unauthorized advantage in order to improve or injure the employment prospects of any person; (7) engaged in nepotism; (8) retaliated against an employee for whistleblowing; (9) took, failed to take, or threatened to take a personnel action because an employee engaged in any of the four protected activity (filed a complaint, grievance or appeal; testified for or helped someone else with one of these activities; cooperated with or disclosed information to the Special Counsel or an Inspector General; or,  refused to obey an order that would require the employee to violate a law); (10) discriminated due to conduct that does not adversely affect job performance (sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination); (11) took or failed to take, recommended, or approved a personnel action if the official knows that doing so would violate a veterans’ preference requirement; (12) took or failed to take a personnel action if doing so would violate a law, rule or regulation implementing or directly concerning the merit system principles; and (13) imposed a nondisclosure agreement that doesn’t allow whistleblowing. Visit osc.gov. for more information on filing a complaint.

This response is written by Maria N. Coleman, supervisory attorney of Shaw Bransford & Roth P.C., a federal employment law firm.

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