As a Federal Employee Can You Sue Your Employer?

Attorney Justin Schnitzer

Written by: Attorney Justin Schnitzer


Experts In This Article

Working as a federal employee provides many benefits, such as job security, competitive salaries, and access to various employee protections. However, like any other job, disputes and conflicts can arise between federal employees and their employers. In such a case, you may wonder, can a federal employee sue their employer?

At The Law Office of Justin Schnitzer, we understand that navigating the complexities of federal employment law can be challenging. As an experienced federal employment law firm, we assist federal employees in protecting their rights and pursuing justice in the workplace.

Can You Sue Your Federal Employer?

Yes. Federal employees, like employees in the private sector, have the right to seek remedies when they believe their rights have been violated by their employer.

Are you dealing with a federal employment dispute? Discuss your legal options with an attorney at The Law Office of Justin Schnitzer. Contact us today or call 202-964-4878 to schedule your free consultation.

What Types of Claims Can You Bring Against Your Federal Employer

As a federal employee, you have various avenues to address issues you may face in the workplace. Here are the most common types of claims you can bring against your employer:

1. Discrimination Claims

Discrimination claims are among the most prevalent issues federal employees may encounter. Federal employees are protected from discrimination based on various factors, including:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex and Gender
  • National origin
  • Age
  • Disability

If you believe you have been treated unfairly or discriminated against in the workplace based on these protected categories, you can file a claim with the appropriate agency, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

2. Whistleblower Claims

Federal employees who report wrongdoing, fraud, or misconduct within their agency are protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act

If you experience retaliation or adverse actions due to reporting such activities, you can bring a whistleblower claim against your federal employer. This protection is crucial for maintaining transparency and accountability in government agencies.

3. Wrongful Termination Claims

Federal employees have rights regarding the termination of their employment. If you believe you were wrongfully terminated and that your termination was not in line with federal employment laws and regulations, you can bring a claim against your federal employer. These claims are often based on violations of due process or other employment rights.

Related Read: Wrongful Termination in the Federal Workplace: Know Your Rights

4. Disability Claims

Federal employees with disabilities are protected under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If you believe that your federal employer has failed to provide reasonable accommodations or discriminated against you due to your disability, you can file a claim to seek redress and ensure equal treatment in the workplace.

5. Harassment Claims

Harassment, whether based on sex, race, or any other protected category, is unacceptable in the federal workplace. Federal employees can bring claims if subjected to a hostile work environment, including unwanted advances, offensive comments, or other forms of harassment.

6. Breach of Employment Contract Claims

Federal employees, like private-sector workers, can have employment contracts that stipulate the terms and conditions of their employment. If your federal employer breaches the terms of your employment contract, you may have grounds to bring a claim to seek compensation for the damages resulting from this breach.

7. Retirement and Benefits Claims

Federal employees can bring claims if they believe their retirement and benefits have been mishandled, leading to financial loss or other adverse consequences.

can a federal employee sue their employer
As a federal employee, you have various avenues to address issues you may face in the workplace.

What Rights Protect You From Retaliation as a Federal Employee When You Sue Your Employer?

As a federal employee, you enjoy certain rights protecting you from retaliation when you sue your employer. These safeguards include:

  • Whistleblower Protection Act: When you file a lawsuit against your employer for misconduct, you often act as a whistleblower. The WPA protects you from retaliation, such as demotions, harassment, or job loss, in response to your whistleblowing activities. 
  • Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws: Federal employees have rights under various EEO laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). 
  • The No-Fear Act: The Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation (No-Fear) Act is designed to protect federal employees from retaliation for pursuing discrimination claims.
  • Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB): If you face adverse personnel actions in retaliation for your legal actions against your employer, you can appeal to the MSPB. The board can review these actions and determine whether they violated your legal rights.
  • Protected Speech: Federal employees have the right to engage in protected speech without facing retaliation. This includes speaking out about illegal activities, waste, fraud, or abuse within their agencies.

While these laws and protections exist, navigating the legal system can be complex. Consult with federal employment attorney to ensure you fully understand your rights and help you navigate the process effectively.

What Damages or Remedies Can Federal Employees Seek in Lawsuits?

When a federal employee decides to take legal action against their employer, they can pursue various damages and remedies to address the issues they face.

1. Back Pay

One of the most common remedies federal employees seek in lawsuits is back pay. Back pay refers to the wages and benefits an employee would have earned if they had not experienced unlawful actions by their employer. For instance, if a federal employee is wrongfully terminated, they may be entitled to back pay for the period during which they were out of work due to the wrongful termination.

2. Reinstatement and Promotion

If a federal employee prevails in a lawsuit, they may seek reinstatement to their previous position or promotion to a higher position if they were wrongfully denied a promotion due to discriminatory or retaliatory actions.

3. Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are intended to compensate the federal employee for the emotional distress, pain, and suffering they experienced due to their employer’s unlawful actions. These damages can cover the emotional toll, mental anguish, and psychological trauma the employee endured due to discrimination, harassment, or other unlawful conduct.

4. Attorney’s Fees and Costs

Federal employees who prevail in lawsuits may be entitled to have their attorney’s fees and litigation costs covered by the government. This provision encourages employees to pursue legitimate claims against their employer without fearing exorbitant legal expenses.

5. Injunctive Relief

In some cases, a federal employee may seek injunctive relief, which involves a court order requiring the employer to take specific actions. For example, an employee who faced ongoing harassment might request an injunction to ensure that the employer implements anti-harassment policies to prevent further harassment within the workplace.

What Are the Challenges in Suing a Federal Employer?

Federal employees who wish to take legal action against their employer often face a range of obstacles, including:

Sovereign Immunity

One of the primary challenges in suing a federal employer is the doctrine of sovereign immunity. This doctrine shields the federal government from most lawsuits, making it immune to legal action without its consent. While some exceptions exist, pursuing a lawsuit against a federal agency can be an uphill battle.

Complex Legal Framework

Federal employment disputes are governed by a complex set of laws and regulations. Navigating this intricate legal landscape can be overwhelming for individuals without legal expertise.

Administrative Remedies

Many federal employment disputes must go through an administrative process before reaching the courts. Federal employees must often exhaust all administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit. This process can be time-consuming and requires an understanding of agency-specific procedures and timelines.

Proving Discrimination and Retaliation

Discrimination and retaliation claims against federal employers can be particularly challenging to prove. Federal agencies are often well-equipped to defend against such claims, and employees must present substantial evidence to establish their case.

We Serve Federal Employees Nationwide

If you are a federal employee and your rights are being violated, we want to help you.

Schedule a Consultation

or, give us a ring at (202) 964-4878.

Attorney Justin Schnitzer

Can a Federal Employee Sue Their Supervisor

Yes, a federal employee has the ability to initiate legal action against their supervisor; however, the likelihood of such a lawsuit progressing is greatly limited by the principle of Qualified Immunity. This legal protection shields federal employees when their actions are part of official duties, barring cases with a direct legal precedent.

For federal employees encountering challenges with a supervisor, pursuing internal resolution methods like grievance procedures or mediation is often more advisable. These approaches can provide a path to resolving disputes without delving into the legal system’s complexities.

To explore the most suitable course of action for your unique circumstances, consider connecting with our law office or fill out one of our short contact forms.

How Can a Federal Employment Attorney Help?

Suing a federal employer as a federal employee is a complex and challenging process due to the various legal and procedural obstacles. Here are five ways a federal employment attorney can help:

  • Legal Expertise: Federal employment attorneys are well-versed in exceptions to sovereign immunity and can identify situations where legal action against a federal employer is possible.
  • Case Assessment: An attorney can thoroughly evaluate your case, you determine whether they have a valid claim. They can assess the strengths and weaknesses of the case, providing realistic expectations for the lawsuit’s outcome.
  • Administrative Process Guidance: Attorneys can guide clients through the administrative process, ensuring that all necessary steps are taken. They can help gather evidence, prepare documents, and meet procedural requirements, reducing the risk of case dismissal.
  • Negotiation and Settlement: Attorneys can negotiate with federal agencies to explore settlement options. This can lead to a quicker resolution and, in some cases, a more favorable outcome for the employee without going to court.
  • Court Representation: If the case proceeds to court, attorneys can provide skilled representation. They can present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and argue the case effectively, increasing the likelihood of a successful outcome.

A federal employment lawyer can provide guidance, legal expertise, and representation throughout the legal journey, ultimately increasing the chances of a successful resolution for you.

Hire a Federal Employment Lawyer at The Law Office of Justin Schnitzer

As a federal employee, you have certain legal protections and can sue your employer in specific situations. The ability to sue is subject to limitations, and the specific procedures and requirements can vary depending on the nature of the claim.

The federal employment lawyers at The Law Office of Justin Schnitzer are dedicated to providing personalized, high-quality legal representation to federal employees nationwide. Contact us today or call 202-964-4878 to schedule your free consultation and learn more about how we can help you achieve your legal goals.

Attorney Justin Schnitzer

Meet the Author:
Attorney Justin Schnitzer

Justin Schnitzer is the managing partner of The Law Office of Justin Schnitzer, and represents individual federal employees and unions in various aspects of federal employment law. His practice is primarily dedicated to federal EEOC and MSPB matters, responses to proposed disciplinary actions and investigations into potential misconduct.