Equal Employment Opportunity at EPA
The EPA cannot and will not tolerate discrimination based on the protected bases of race; color; religion; sex, including pregnancy, sex stereotyping, gender identity or gender expression; national origin; sexual orientation; sex stereotyping, physical or mental disability; age; protected genetic information; status as a parent marital status; political affiliation; or retaliation based on previous Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) activity. The EPA also will not tolerate any type of harassment - either sexual or nonsexual - of any employee or applicant for employment.
EPA protects employees or applicants for employment from discrimination in employment activities, including but not limited to:
- Other employment terms, conditions and privileges
- Retaliation - adverse action taken because an applicant or employee asserted rights under Title VII or participated in an EEOC proceeding such as testifying and assisting
- Segregation and Classification
- Pre-employment inquiries and requirements - nothing should be required that tends to disclose a protected basis
- Religious practices that don't impose an undue hardship on an employer
The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) administers and ensures Agency compliance with the laws, regulations, policies, and guidance that prohibit discrimination in the Federal workplace.
If you believe you have been discriminated against, you must contact your Regional or Lab Office of Civil Rights within 45 calendar days of the alleged discriminatory event. For personnel actions (such as promotions, failure to receive a within grade increase, reassignment, non-selection, etc.), you must contact your Regional or Lab Office of Civil rights no later than 45 calendar days from the effective date of the alleged discriminatory personnel action.
Headquarter's employees should call Debra Schwartz, Area Director, at 702-646-8967 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to start the complaint process.
Once you have contacted the Office of Civil Rights, you will be assigned an EEO Counselor. The EEO Counselor serves as a neutral party and is not an advocate for either management or the employee filing a complaint. The Counselors main role is to explore options for resolution of the issues involved. EEO counseling is an essential part of the federal system for processing and resolving employee and applicant EEO concerns. The opportunity for informal resolution at an early stage is an important feature of the counseling stage. If resolution is not achieved, the counselor plays a vital role in ensuring prompt and efficient processing of the discrimination complaint.
During counseling, the EEO Counselor will advise individuals in writing of their rights and responsibilities, explain the complaint process, and conduct a limited inquiry into the allegations presented. This inquiry may involve interviews with employees, management officials or persons the counselor determines may have some firsthand knowledge of the allegations.
Counseling is normally completed within 30 calendar days. The time period for counseling may be extended for an additional 60 calendar days upon the written request of the employee and the agreement of the servicing EEO office.
If the EEO Counselor is unable to help you come to a resolution, you will be given a Notice of Right to File a Formal Discrimination Complaint. You will have 15 calendar after receipt of that notice to file a Formal Complaint of Discrimination with the Office of Civil Rights at Headquarters. Formal Complaints of Discrimination should be addressed to:
Cynthia Darden, Assistant Director,
Office of Civil Rights- Mailcode 1201A
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20460-0001.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
During the counseling stage of the complaint process, you will be offered the option of using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as a means of resolving the complaint. The EPA promotes the use of alternative dispute resolution methods to resolve EEO complaints. Managers are reminded that their participation in agency-approved alternative dispute resolution efforts to resolve employee EEO complaints is required, absent extraordinary circumstances as determined by the Office of Civil Rights' Director or designee.
There are several ADR models available. Mediation is typically the model used in the EEO complaint process. Mediation is an informal meeting between the parties that is conducted by a neutral mediator. A mediator is trained to help people who have disagreements talk to each other. The mediator does not decide who is right or wrong or issue a decision. Instead, the mediator helps the parties work out their own solutions to their dispute.
The OCR ADR program manager will find a qualified mediator through the Federal Sharing Neutrals (“FSN”) Program, administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. FSN members are federal employees who mediate on a collateral duty basis or government retirees who volunteer their services. All neutrals used by FSN have the training and experience necessary to conduct effective process, are committed to act impartially at all times and will maintain the confidentiality of the process.
After a situation is determined appropriate for ADR, the ADR coordinator will coordinate with the parties to schedule an ADR session at a mutually agreeable time and location. Participants in ADR may choose to bring a representative to the meeting. This representative may be a friend, family member, union representative or attorney. If one of the participants is a management official, he/she may be accompanied by an Agency attorney or labor relations specialist.
During an ADR session, each party to the conflict will have the opportunity to explain their perspectives. The neutrals will help the parties identify the key issues and explore ways to mutually satisfy their important interests. During the ADR process, there may be the need for the neutral and the participants to have private discussions, this is called a caucus; this is an opportunity to discuss issues they do not wish to disclose in joint session. If an ADR session results in reaching an agreement, the neutrals will prepare a written draft of the agreement with the participants’ help. A draft does not constitute an agreement unless the parties agree to the written terms and affirm with their signature. The terms of any written agreement will have to be reviewed by an EPA representative to ensure it is consistent with applicable laws, regulations and bargaining agreements.
Typically, all aspects of ADR are voluntary, including the content of any final agreement. Complainants can choose to end ADR at any time. There is no penalty for declining to participate or declining to continue participation in an ADR session.
If attempts to informally resolve the allegation are unsuccessful, you be provided, in writing, a notice that counseling has been completed and will be issued a Notice of Right to File a Formal Complaint. You will have 15 calendar days from the date of receipt of the notice to submit the discrimination complaint in writing, by mail or in person, to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR).
If the employee decides to file a formal complaint, the Employment Complaints Resolution Staff (ECRS) at the Office of Civil Rights Headquarters office will send the employee a letter acknowledging receipt of the complaint and assigning the complaint an official case number. ECRS will then review the complaint to determine if the Agency and the Complainant have met the procedural requirements established by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) i.e. was the complaint timely filed, was the complaint brought to the attention of an EEO Counselor, etc.
After the formal complaint has been thoroughly reviewed, ECRS will send a second letter advising the Complainant whether all procedural requirements have been met. This letter will also identify the allegations the Agency will investigate and/or those allegations the Agency will not investigate.
If the complaint is accepted, it will be investigated. The investigation will be factually thorough, impartial, and completed within 180 calendar days from the date of the filing of your discrimination complaint. This means identifying and obtaining all relevant evidence from all sources regardless of how it may affect the outcome. The proper scope of an investigation is dictated by the facts at issue. An appropriate investigation is one that allows a reasonable fact finder to draw conclusions as to whether discrimination occurred.
Following the investigation, you will be provided with a copy of the report of investigation (ROI). You have 30 calendar days after receipt of the ROI to request either a hearing on the merits of your discrimination complaint at a district office of the EEOC or an immediate Final Agency Decision (FAD) from the Agency. If you elect a hearing, your ROI will be reviewed by an EEOC Administrative Judge who will decide whether discrimination has occured and order remedies and relief in accordance with regulations. If you elect a FAD, the Director of OCR will decide whether discrimination has occured and order remedies and relief in accordance with regulations.
Hearings are typically conducted at the EEOC’s district or field office serving the community where the complaint arose. The Administrative Judge’s (AJ) office will communicate directly with the Complainant and the appropriate agency attorney concerning dates, times, location and all other particulars of the hearing. The AJ will issue a decision based on the investigative report and any testimony provided during the hearing. The Order issued by the AJ will provide guidance to the Complainant and the Agency on appeal rights.
If no election for a hearing is made in the requisite time, the Agency is obligated to issue a Final Agency Decision (FAD). The final decision consists of findings by the Agency on the merits of each allegation in the complaint, or as appropriate the rationale for dismissing any allegations and when discrimination is found, appropriate. The final action shall contain notice of the right to appeal the final agency decision to the EEOC, the right to file a civil action in federal district court and the applicable time limits for appeals and lawsuits.
If you have any questions or need further information about the EEO process, please feel free to contact your local EEO Office or the Headquarters, Office of Civil Rights.