By Deborah Hopkins, May 16, 2018

Remember in grade school, learning about homonyms? In case you don’t remember, homonyms are words which sound alike or are spelled alike, but have different meanings. Think to, too, and two; or they’re, their and there. It’s not always a fatal error to use the wrong word, but it can make you look pretty silly.

Lots of terms that sound alike, but have different meanings, get used in our federal employment law world – and while people may be tempted to use these terms interchangeably, sometimes it’s a mistake to do so. Today, let’s clear up any potential confusion over these common EEO terms:

  • Final Agency Decision
  • Final Agency Order
  • Final Agency Determination
  • Final Agency Action

First up is the Final Agency Decision (FAD), which refers to a written decision on a complaint of discrimination that is made by the agency’s EEO Office, without a hearing before an Administrative Judge. The agency will issue findings based on the claims raised, and if discrimination is found, will issue a remedy. This may include agency decisions to dismiss claims, or agency decisions on the merits. A FAD is appealable, by the complainant, to the EEOC. Agencies are not permitted to appeal their own FADs (though some would like to!).

If complainant requests a FAD, fails to request a hearing, or files an untimely hearing request, the agency must issue Final Agency Decision within 60 days. 29 CFR § 1614.110(b).

On to the rest. EEOC Management Directive 110 clarifies these terms for us:

A Final Agency Order refers to a decision by an agency to implement or not implement an Administrative Judge’s decision, which is appealable to the Commission. That’s right, an agency can choose not to implement all – or any part – of an AJ’s decision if it disagrees with the finding, the amount of damages, or any other remedy therein. If the agency’s final order does not fully implement the AJ’s decision, the agency must simultaneously appeal to the Commission with its reasons explained.

A Final Agency Determination refers to an agency’s determination about whether there was a breach of a settlement agreement that is appealable to the Commission. For example, the agency may make a determination the complainant breached the settlement if, as part of the settlement the employee agreed to withdraw all pending EEO Complaints but then did not do so.

A Final Agency Action refers to an agency’s last and, unsurprisingly, final action on a complaint of employment discrimination. The final agency action may be in any of several forms:

  • a final agency decision,
  • a final agency order implementing an Administrative Judge’s decision, or
  • a final determination on a breach of settlement agreement claim.

Hope this helps curb some of the confusion around these similar, but non-interchangeable terms. Hopkins@FELTG.com

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