Process for discrimination suits different for feds

Tuesday - 8/30/2011, 10:04am EDT

Debra Roth, Shaw Bransford & Roth

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By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio

In the past few weeks, two lawsuits — involving former Booz Allen Hamilton employees alleging sex discrimination — have come to light.

Both lawsuits accuse officials with the company, one of the largest government contractors, of denying women the chance to move up to the company's top leadership positions.

And while the allegations surround a private-sector firm, many are now wondering what the recourse is for federal employees who believe they've been denied advancement or forced to leave a job because of sex discrimination.

As it turns out, the "same rules that apply in the private sector apply to the federal system," said Debra Roth, with Shaw Bransford and Roth. She noted that sex discrimination violates federal anti-discrimination statutes, which apply to the both the government and industry.

However, the process for enforcing those rules are different, she explained. In the private-sector, allegations of discrimination are mostly settled by a court.

For federal employees alleging discrimination, "there is a much more elaborate process inside the federal system," Roth said.

While government contractors are required to abide by anti-discrimination laws, the contracting process and the relationship between the government and Booz Allen is not likely to be affected — especially as the case has yet to be decided.

"It becomes some sort of public relations question for them," Roth said of Booz Allen. "But government contracts are awarded based on open and fair competition, not whether there's a lawsuit pending."