FAQ: Can I file an EEO Complaint over a Furlough?

Question

Can I file an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint if I’m furloughed?

Answer

The short answer is yes.  A federal employee may file an EEO complaint to contest the agency’s furlough decision.  Discrimination complaints are based on one or more of the following:

Sex

Color

National Origin

Age

Race

Disability

Religion

Genetic Information

Reprisal for prior EEO activity

However, filing a complaint and prevailing in a complaint are two different things.  It is unlikely your supervisor, or your supervisor’s supervisor, or her supervisor’s supervisor, had any influence on the decision to furlough employees.  The ranking official in the agency likely made the decision to furlough employees.  It is improbable the secretary of the agency you work for is aware of who you are, much less what you look like, where you go to church, where you are from or how old you are.  Further, if your agency took the meat axe approach and furloughed everyone it will be difficult to demonstrate how you were treated differently than anyone else in your office, station or unit.

That said, managers would probably be given a fair amount of discretion on how to implement and carry out the furlough.  If you believe the manner of the furlough implementation is discriminatory then you can file an EEO complaint as well.

For example, your boss devises a schedule to assure adequate coverage during the furlough.  In doing so she asks everyone to identify their preferred furlough day, except for you.  Most people pick either Monday or Friday so they at least get a three-day weekend out of the deal.

You are surprised to find out your furlough day is Wednesday.  Further, your co-workers all state the boss asked their preference and worked with them to lessen the sting of the furlough by giving them a three-day weekend.  Last year you were a witness in an EEO complaint filed by a former co-worker in which he alleged your supervisor discriminated against him.  You suspect she didn’t give you Monday or Friday as a furlough day in reprisal for your participation as a witness in an EEO complaint.

In the above scenario the supervisor is required to provide a legitimate business reason for treating you differently than everyone else.  If you choose to contest a furlough by filing an EEO complaint it is likely your boss can provide a legitimate business reason for furloughing you.  They’ll simply submit the furlough order from the secretary of your agency citing the budget concerns necessitating the furlough.  In other words, your boss doesn’t have much to answer for in that type of complaint.  They are too far removed from the decision you are contesting.

On the other hand, if your boss is abusing her discretion in the implementation of the furlough your complaint may have some legs.

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