Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.
I have an employee that makes frequent complaints of harassment. Can this employee be brought up on charges that she caused a hostile work environment due to false EEO allegations?
Filing a hostile work environment claim against an employee requires a basis of discriminations, such as race, religion, national origin, disability, sex, etc. You cannot file a hostile work environment claim against an employee merely because she filed a complaint against you.
As for misusing the EEO process, the agency can dismiss an employee’s complaint when the complaints are “part of a clear pattern of misuse of the EEO process for a purpose other than the prevention and elimination of employment discrimination.” Under 29 C.F.R §1614.107, a clear pattern of misuse of the EEO process requires:
(i) Evidence of multiple complaint filings; and
(ii) Allegations that are similar or identical, lack specificity or involve matters previously resolved; or
(iii) Evidence of circumventing other administrative processes, retaliating against the agency’s in-house administrative processes or overburdening the EEO complaint system.
Whether to dismiss a case using this basis is a decision made by the EEO office, not the manager.
Remember, employees have a right to use the EEO system to file workplace complaints. Managers have an obligation to respect that right and to work cooperatively with the EEO process. That is part of a federal manager’s job.
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