Sovereign Immunity & the FTCA
Just as an employee of a private company can bring a lawsuit against their employer (such as in cases where they are injured in the workplace or are the victim of workplace discrimination), so, too, can a federal employee. However, the process by which a federal employee can sue the federal government is a bit more complicated, and the process is not as straightforward. This is because the federal government has sovereign immunity.
However, with the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) enacted in 1946, the federal government has waived its sovereign immunity in certain situations. Consequently, individuals (or their representative) who have suffered injury, property loss, or other damage (including wrongful death) may sue the federal government when those damages result from a federal employee's wrongful action, negligence, or omission. These types of claims are filed with the EPA.
Keep reading to learn more about situations where a federal employee may bring a lawsuit against the federal government.
Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws
Some of the most common lawsuits brought against the federal government are those dealing with workplace discrimination. Federal employees who experience workplace discrimination based on race, religion, sex, disability, or other protected category may sue the federal government under Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws. As a federal employee, you have rights. Equal Employment Opportunity laws are in place to prevent workplace discrimination and provide legal recourse for those who are victims of discrimination. The EEOC enforces these laws. However, despite this, discrimination still happens. By filing an EEO lawsuit, you may be able to recover damages and receive compensation for attorney fees.
Examples of EEO cases include:
- Sexual harassment
- Gender discrimination
- Disability discrimination
- Pregnancy discrimination
- Racial discrimination
- Religious discrimination
Filing an EEOC Lawsuit
In most of these cases, before filing your lawsuit with the court, you will first have to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and receive a Notice of Right to Sue. Prior to receiving your Notice of Right to Sue, the EEOC will investigate if there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination has occurred. The EEOC will also work to resolve the matter through a conciliation process. In cases where conciliation is unsuccessful, the EEOC will decide if litigation is appropriate. After receiving your Notice of Right to Sue, your lawsuit must be filed within 90 days.
In some cases, such as Age Discrimination Lawsuits (ADEA) and Equal Pay Lawsuits (EPA), you may not need to file a charge or have received a Notice of Right to Sue to file your lawsuit in court. Additionally, an individual may request a Notice of Right to Sue before the EEOC investigation is completed. If the EEOC investigation has been going on for more than 180 days, the EEOC is required to give you a Notice if you request it.
Before moving forward with your case, you should consult with an experienced attorney to ensure that you follow all proper procedures. These cases have many challenges, and it is recommended that you secure legal representation from an attorney experienced in labor and employment law, like Pines Federal.
Challenges Reporting Discrimination & Retaliation
It can be very difficult to bring a claim to the EEOC, especially as a federal employee. Victims may face significant bias when reporting violations of EEO laws, and they may even feel pressure to keep quiet or are actively discouraged from making claims. Often those who have experienced workplace discrimination feel isolated and like they have no one to turn to. They may also face the strain of having to continue working in a hostile environment.
Another common problem reporters of workplace discrimination experience is retaliation for asserting EEO rights. Retaliation typically occurs because an employer, manager, or coworker is trying to discourage others from asserting their EEO rights. This is illegal. These cases can be particularly challenging, and if you are an employee who has experienced retaliation, you may be scared to come forward.
If you are a federal employee and have been the victim of workplace discrimination or retaliation, you are not alone. You also do not have to go through this process on your own. By working with an experienced attorney familiar with handling EEOC cases (like Pines Federal), you can get the support you need to seek justice. Send our attorneys a message online to discuss your case today.