About the Special Emphasis Programs
Special Emphasis Programs (SEP) are an integral part of the Equal Employment Opportunity and Civil Rights Program. The purpose of these programs is to ensure that agencies take affirmative steps to provide equal opportunity to minorities, women and people with disabilities in all areas of employment. The term, "Special Emphasis Programs," refers specifically to employment related programs which focus special attention on groups that are conspicuously absent or underrepresented in a specific occupational category or grade level in the agency's work force. These programs serve as a channel to management officials. The goals of the Special Emphasis Programs are to:
- Improve employment and advancement opportunities for minorities, women and people with disabilities in the Federal service;
- Identify systemic causes of discrimination against minorities, women and people with disabilities;
- Seek ways to help minorities, women and people with disabilities to advance by using their skills more fully;
- Monitor agency progress in eliminating discrimination and adverse impact on minorities, women and people with disabilities in employment and agency programs; and
- Educate Federal employees and managers about the extent of various forms of discrimination within the Federal Service.
Special observances were designed for the purpose of providing cultural awareness to everyone. Commemorative activities conducted for these observances should be educational and employment-related. Observances celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; African American Heritage; Women's History; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) equal rights; Asian Pacific Americans; Women's Equality Day; Hispanic Americans; People with Disabilities; and American Indian/Alaskan Native Heritage.
Special Emphasis Program Managers are members of the management team. They should participate in the review of agency policies, practices, and procedures in order to help eliminate any that discriminate against minorities, women and people with disabilities. SEP Managers also analyze information and data and present recommendations to improve all aspects of employment as they relate to the targeted groups. These Managers serve as subject matter experts, staff advisors, fact finders, sources of information and program advocates. Therefore, individuals selected for these positions must remain objective and operate in a professional manner at all times.
Most agencies have established SEPs for the following: Hispanic Employment Program (HEP), the Federal Women's Program (FWP), African American, Asian Pacific American Program, Native American Program, LGBT Program, and Disabilities Employment Program (DEP). The primary goals of Special Emphasis Programs are to eliminate discriminatory practices and to assure the target groups are appropriately represented throughout the workforce.
Special Emphasis Programs receive their authority from Federal statues, regulations, and Presidential Executive Orders which include, but are not limited to, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Rehabilitation Act, Equal Employment Opportunity Act. These authorities require Federal agencies to conduct affirmative recruitment of women, minorities and persons with disabilities.
As early as 1940, racial discrimination was banned in the Federal service. The Ramspeck Act made it illegal for anyone in the Federal government to be discriminated against based on based on race, color, national origin or creed (religion).
President Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order 8587, coupled with the passage of the Hatch Act in 1939 and the Ramspeck Act in 1940, began the process of dismantling racial segregation. President Truman continued this process in 1948 when he issued executive orders, which banned racial segregation in the military and outlawed racial discrimination in the Federal government.
Through President Truman's Executive Order 9980, Federal agencies were directed to:
- Initiate relations with relevant minority organizations in order to facilitate a larger pool of minority job applicants,
- Conduct periodic surveys to assess the number of minority employees working in each agency,
- Develop and adopt new recruitment strategies designed to facilitate equal employment opportunities for members of minority groups, and
- Develop training programs for all lower-level employees, where the majority of minority members were to be found, so that they might receive the prerequisite skills for promotions.