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Equal Employment Opportunity Laws and Protections


On May 15, 2002, Congress enacted the "Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002," also known as the No FEAR Act. One purpose of the act is to hold federal agencies accountable for violations of antidiscrimination and whistleblower protection laws. The No FEAR Act requires that federal agencies post certain summary statistical data relating to equal employment opportunity complaints filed against them on their public websites.

The No FEAR Act also requires that federal agencies provide the below notices to federal employees, former federal employees and applicants for federal employment in order to inform them of the rights and protections available under federal antidiscrimination, whistleblower protection, and anti-retaliation laws.

Antidiscrimination Laws

A federal agency cannot discriminate against an employee or applicant with respect to the terms, conditions or privileges of employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), national origin, age, disability, marital status or political affiliation. Discrimination on these bases is prohibited by one or more of the following statutes: 5 U.S.C. 2302(b) (1), 29 U.S.C. 206(d), 29 U.S.C. 631, 29 U.S.C. 633a, 29 U.S.C. 791 and 42 U.S.C. 2000e-16. If you believe that you have been the victim of unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), national origin or disability, you must contact an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) counselor within 45 calendar days of the alleged discriminatory action, or, in the case of a personnel action, within 45 calendar days of the effective date of the action, before you can file a formal complaint of discrimination with your agency. See, e.g., 29 CFR § 1614.

Whistleblower Protection Laws

A federal employee with authority to take, direct others to take, recommend or approve any personnel action must not use that authority to take or fail to take, or threaten to take or fail to take, a personnel action against an employee or applicant because of disclosure of information by that individual that is reasonably believed to evidence violations of law, rule or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; an abuse of authority; or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, unless disclosure of such information is specifically prohibited by law and such information is specifically required by Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or the conduct of foreign affairs.

Retaliation against an employee or applicant for making a protected disclosure is prohibited by 5 U.S.C. 2302(b)(8). If you believe that you have been the victim of whistleblower retaliation, you may file a written complaint (Form OSC-11) with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel at 1730 M Street NW., Suite 218, Washington, DC 20036-4505 or online through the OSC website.

Retaliation for Engaging in Protected Activity

A federal agency cannot retaliate against an employee or applicant because that individual exercises his or her rights under any of the federal antidiscrimination or whistleblower protections laws listed above. If you believe that you are the victim of retaliation for engaging in protected activity, you must follow, as appropriate, the procedures described in the Antidiscrimination Laws and Whistleblower Protection Laws sections or, if applicable, the administrative or negotiated grievance procedures in order to pursue any legal remedy.

Disciplinary Actions

Under the existing laws, each agency retains the right, where appropriate, to discipline a federal employee who has engaged in discriminatory or retaliatory conduct, up to and including removal. If OSC has initiated an investigation under 5 U.S.C. 1214, however, according to 5 U.S.C. 1214(f), agencies must seek approval from the Special Counsel to discipline employees for, among other activities, engaging in prohibited retaliation. Nothing in the No FEAR Act alters existing laws or permits an agency to take unfounded disciplinary action against a federal employee or to violate the procedural rights of a federal employee who has been accused of discrimination.

Additional Information

For further information regarding the No FEAR Act regulations, refer to 5 CFR 724, as well as the appropriate offices within your agency (e.g., Center for Equal Employment Opportunity, Center for Human Capital Management Services, or Office of General Counsel). OPM's specific antidiscrimination policies relating to equal employment opportunity and prohibited personnel practices have been physically and electronically posted throughout OPM. Additional information regarding federal antidiscrimination, whistleblower protection and retaliation laws can be found at the EEOC website and the OSC website.

Existing Rights Unchanged

Pursuant to section 205 of the No FEAR Act, neither the Act nor this notice creates, expands or reduces any rights otherwise available to any employee, former employee or applicant under the laws of the United States, including the provisions of law specified in 5 U.S.C. 2302(d).

Architectural Barriers Act Complaint Processing

The Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (ABA) requires buildings or facilities to be accessible if the building or facility was designed, built, or altered with federal dollars or leased by federal agencies after August 12, 1968. Complaints about the inaccessibility of HRSA offices should be made directly to the U.S. Access Board. Please visit the U.S. Access Board for more information.

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