Equal Employment Opportunity - Frequently Asked Questions

What is discrimination?

Discrimination occurs when an employer intentionally treats one employee differently from another when the two are similarly situated and the treatment is based on race, color, age (40 and over), national origin, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), disability, protected genetic information, or reprisal for prior EEO activity/opposition to discrimination. This type of discrimination is called disparate treatment.

Discrimination can also occur when an employment decision is based on neutral factors and has an adverse impact on a protected group. This type of discrimination is called disparate impact.

Who is protected by the laws prohibiting discrimination?

All employees and applicants for employment are protected based on their race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, disability, protected genetic information or prior participation in the EEO process/opposition to discrimination. Although discrimination on the basis of parental status is not covered by a federal statute, it is prohibited within the federal government by Executive Order 13152.

What is retaliation?

Retaliation, also referred to as reprisal, is the taking of any adverse action against an individual because of his or her prior participation in the EEO process or opposition to discriminatory practices.


What is harassment?

Harassment is physical or verbal conduct that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.  The harassment must be based on a protected basis and be so severe or pervasive as to alter the conditions of your employment.


What is "reasonable accommodation" for a disabled person?

Reasonable accommodations are modifications or adjustments to job application procedures, or a work environment that enable an applicant or employee with a disability to be considered qualified for the position.  Employers are required to provide a reasonable accommodation when an individual with a disability requests one, unless it creates an undue hardship on the agency.

How do I file an EEO complaint?

You must first contact an EEO Counselor in the EEO office of the Bureau where your complaint arose.  For a listing of Counseling contact information in your Bureau, click here.  Once you have completed the Counseling process and received a Notice of Right to File a Discrimination Complaint, you may initiate a formal complaint, instructions for which may be found here.


How much time do I have to contact an EEO counselor?

Filing deadlines are important.  You must contact an EEO Counselor within 45 calendar days of the date the matter alleged to be discriminatory occurred or, in the case of a personnel action, within 45 calendar days of the effective date of the action or your knowledge of the action/discrimination. 


What is a class complaint?

A class complaint is a written complaint of discrimination filed on behalf of a class. A class is a group of employees, former employees, or applicants for employment who allege, via a designated agent, that they have been, or are being, adversely affected by an employment practice that discriminates against the group because of their common race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, protected genetic information, or disability.