This list will help assist you in determining whether or not you should invest time and energy into pursuing a discrimination claim. EEO cases can be time consuming and expensive. Here are some tips based on my 20 years of experience in the field to help you decide whether to pursue your claim.
1. Can I convince a Judge or an Arbitrator?
Often one knows that a certain act taken against him or her is wrong and should be punished, still one needs to recognize that a Judge or an Arbitrator is being put in the position of making a decision that could harm or even destroy an managers career. In other words, do I believe that the Judge is going to be willing to brand the responsible party a racist, sexist, ageist or someone who harms disabled people?! Be aware that your case needs to be clear enough to convince the Judge that this should be done.
2. Did the person take this act against me for a non-discriminatory reason?
I often think that if responsible management officials were more honest they would win more cases. The law requires them to come up with a non-discriminatory reason as to why they took the action that was harmful to the employee. Often the official takes an action against an individual based on a personality conflict yet the supervisor will not admit that they just do not like this employee to a judge or arbitrator. If they would they would win these cases more easily. At the end of the day the Judge needs to believe that the supervisor is discriminating against you because of your race, religion, disability, age, etc.. You need to be able to articulate this well or your case will be dismissed. Even if the agency or company will not say they do not like someone they usually come up with a legitimate reason. You must be able to prove that reason wrong.
3. Can you convince your friend that management is racist, sexist, ageist or dislikes disabled people?
We all know that discrimination exists but you need to be able to convince a Judge or Arbitrator that it has occurred because of discrimination. First, try to convince your best friend or someone not involved in the case that the act occurred because of discrimination and not for some other reason. Present your friend with all your evidence, be it written or oral and then ask him his or her their opinion. If you cannot convince your friend, it is doubtful you will be able to convince a Judge or an Arbitrator who sees hundreds of these cases a year and dismisses about 80%.
4. Was the harassment you suffered extremely bad?
If your case is based on harassment. You should know that the case law requires that you suffered extreme circumstances and not just isolated incidences. You need to be able to show that the conditions you suffered were severe or pervasive. In other words, things had to be really bad such that you could not do your job. Either one act needs to be really bad or there needs to be many pretty bad acts. Just hearing one racial slur alone will likely not be enough. It needs to be really bad. Look up some of the caselaw if necessary and compare to your situation or ask an attorney to compare your situation to others he or she has seen. You can go to eeoc.gov and search federal cases.
5. Am I the 25%?
About 1-5% of Federal Sector EEO cases are successful at a hearing. Another 20% may settle. That means 75% of cases are dismissed or dropped. Ask yourself if you case fits into the 20-25% of cases in levels of egregiousness. In other words are you confident your case was based on discrimination and if it was did you suffer a real tangible action (termination, suspension, etc..) or severe and pervasive discrimination (see above) If so it may be time to speak to an attorney.