The U. S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Civil Rights (OCR), Employment Complaints Division, is responsible for processing formal complaints of discrimination.
Upon receipt of a formal complaint, OCR will analyze the complaint and make a determination on whether to accept or dismiss the complaint. OCR notifies the Complainant and the Agency whether the complaint was accepted for investigation or dismissed.
Once a complaint is accepted, an investigator is assigned by FSIS to investigate the complaint.
Following completion of the investigation, a Report of Investigation is provided to the Complainant and to the Civil Rights Division, Office of the Administrator, FSIS.
The Complainant is given a choice between withdrawing the complaint, a final decision, or a hearing before an Administrative Judge (AJ) from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
If a Complainant elects a final decision without a hearing, OCR will issue the decision. If the Complainant is dissatisfied with the decision, an appeal may be filed with EEOC. Complainants who are dissatisfied with a decision from EEOC may go to Federal District Court.
If the Complainant elects a hearing, the AJ issues a decision to both parties. USDA adopts the decision of the AJ by issuing a final order. However, if the Agency does not plan to fully implement the AJ's decision, the Agency must file an appeal with EEOC and give the Complainant his appeal rights.
If the Complainant is dissatisfied with the Agency's decision, he or she may file an appeal with EEOC.
The Civil Rights Division, Office of the Administrator, FSIS is responsible for tracking formal complaints, providing assistance as appropriate, and coordinating activities which will facilitate the processing of formal complaints. This includes working closely with investigators, Agency and Complainant representatives, managers, supervisors and employees during the processing of complaints, to include attempts at resolution.
The Civil Rights Staff, Office of the Administrator provides advice, guidance and assistance on the implementation, management and compliance with Equal Employment Opportunity programs. Such programs include Affirmative Employment, Complaints Management, Special Emphasis Program, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Training, and Workforce Diversity. The staff's goal is to ensure fair and equal treatment to internal and external customers. The staff also conducts mediation, team building, and conflict resolution programs through its Mediation and Conflict Resolution Group (MCRG).
Positive steps taken by an employer to ensure equal employment opportunities for minorities, women, and persons with disabilities. In federal employment, extra effort must be made to include qualified women, minorities, and persons with disabilities at grade levels and in job categories where they are underrepresented.
Affirmative Employment Plan (MD-715)
Current guidance on affirmative employment is the EEOC's Management Directive 715, which establishes standards for maintaining a model EEO agency program pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Age discrimination is present if an individual covered under this provision is treated unfavorably in the terms and conditions of his/her employment because of his or her age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids discrimination based on age for those individuals who are 40 years of age or older. An individual is covered when an employer discriminates in any facet of employment including, but not limited to, hiring, firing, wages, benefits, hours worked, and availability of overtime based on age.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
ADR refers to a variety of dispute resolution processes (e.g., mediation, conciliation, arbitration, facilitation, etc.) designed to assist parties in working through issues and/or resolving differences in ways that meet the parties' interests. These processes are confidential, involve a third party neutral, and are typically voluntary. ADR is available during the pre-complaint and formal complaint processes, and is useful for resolving disputes involving miscommunication, personality conflicts, disagreement over facts, and alleged discrimination. It is not available for cases of waste, fraud, abuse, criminal activity, dispute over agency policy, workplace violence, or allegations of sexual harassment.
Class Complaint/Class Action
A complaint articulated or filed by a group of people who feel that personnel or management policies or practices discriminate against them as a group. Members of the group believe that a characteristic they share—race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability is the basis for the discrimination. For example, a class may be made up of women who believe they have been consistently discriminated against because of their sex. In such a case, all female employees, past and present, and all female applicants would be included in the complaint. When a class complaint goes to court, it becomes a class action. As with complaints by individuals, illegal discrimination may or may not have occurred.
Discrimination based on color occurs when individuals are treated less favorably than others who are similarly situated because of the color of their skin. This is a separately identifiable type of discrimination, which can also occur in conjunction with race discrimination.
Community Outreach Program
Community Outreach Program is a continuous public relations approach to the achievement of the agency's civil rights policies and objectives. The objectives of community outreach include, but are not limited to:
Establishing and maintaining good working relations with leaders of minority, women's, and disabled persons' organizations; community leaders; officials of schools, colleges and technical institutions; and Federal, State, local, and corporate officials involved in civil rights program activities, ensuring that managers and supervisors with responsibilities in federally assisted programs increase the awareness of and participation by minority, women, and individuals with disabilities, organizations, and institutions in the various FSIS programs. These endeavors include similar efforts by recipients of Federal assistance.
The following list includes examples of community outreach activities:
- Arranging for individuals and groups to visit FSIS facilities;
- Meeting with community leaders, tribal councils, minority, women's and disabled persons' organizations, and others involved in seeking to further civil rights;
- Attending and participating in conventions, meetings, seminars, training sessions, etc., of minority, women's and disabled persons' organizations and support of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges, and Hispanic-serving Institutions.
A complaint is a claim of illegal discrimination that is handled through an administrative procedure. A complaint may result when an employee believes he or she has been unfairly treated because of race, color, etc. The claim itself is not proof that illegal discrimination has taken place. The investigation that follows the filing of a formal complaint will determine if illegal discrimination has, in fact, occurred. A person who files a complaint is called a complainant .
Discrimination is defined in civil rights law as unfavorable or unfair treatment of a person or class of persons in comparison with others who are not members of the protected class.
Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities
Discrimination against a person with a disability occurs when an employee or applicant is treated less favorably on the basis of a disabling condition. It can also happen when an organization fails to make reasonable accommodation for a qualified disabled employee or applicant able to meet the requirements of the position through reasonable accommodation or job modification.
A person with a disability is defined as one who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.
Physical or mental impairment means any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin and endocrine, or any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
Major life activities include (but are not limited to) functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, standing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working.
Has a record of such an impairment is defined as having a history of, or having been classified (or misclassified) as having a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
Is regarded as having such an impairment means: (1) Has a physical or mental impairment that does not substantially limit major life activities but is treated by an employer as constituting such a limitation; (2) Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities only as a result of the attitude of an employer toward such impairment; or (3) Has none of the impairments but is treated as having a substantially limiting impairment.
Under EEO law, less favorable effect for one group than for another. Disparate or adverse impact results when policies and practices applied to all employees or applicants have a different and more inhibiting effect on one group than they do on another. For example, nonessential educational requirements for certain jobs can have a disparate impact on minority groups looking for work, as they are often limited in their access to educational opportunities.
Inconsistent application of rules and policies to an individual or one group of people over another. Discrimination may result when rules and policies are applied differently to members of protected classes. Disciplining Hispanic and Afro-American employees for tardiness, while ignoring tardiness among other employees, is an example of disparate treatment. Such inconsistent application of rules often leads to complaints.
Equal Employment Opportunity
The goal of laws which make some types of discrimination in employment illegal. Equal employment opportunity (EEO) will become a reality when each U.S. citizen has an equal chance to enjoy the benefits of employment. EEO is not a guarantee of employment for anyone. Under EEO law, only job related factors can be used to determine if an individual is qualified for a particular job. Ideally, EEO laws and Affirmative Action programs combine to achieve equal employment opportunities. See EEO law, Affirmative Action, and Affirmative Employment Plan.
Providing equal opportunity in employment on the basis of merit and fitness without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, age, disability, religion, marital status, familial status, parental status, sexual orientation, political beliefs, protected genetic information, or reprisal for prior EEO activity.
EEO Advisory Committees
Serve as a communication link between employees, management and the Civil Rights Division, Office of the Administrator on issues and concerns affecting equal employment opportunity and workforce diversity in the Agency. They provide recommendations to improve program effectiveness and evaluate employment data to identify trends, accomplishments, or problems.
Equal Employment Opportunity Laws
Five laws which prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, physical and mental disability in any terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. The five EEO laws are:
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963, as amended.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 and the Pregnancy Disability Act of 1978.
- The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended.
- The Civil Rights Act of 1991.
EEO versus Preferential Treatment
Federal EEO laws do not require an employer to extend preferential treatment to any person or group because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability. EEO merely demands that all persons receive the same opportunities for hiring, training, promotion, etc. Where those opportunities were not available to all groups in the past because of discrimination, affirmative employment may be required to overcome the effects of such bias.
A group of peoples who share a common religion, color, or national origin. Irish-Americans, Mexican-Americans, German-Americans, Italian-Americans, Hindus, Moslems, and Jews are examples of ethnic groups. Some members of ethnic groups participate in the customs and practices of their groups, while others do not. Discrimination based on these customs and practices is illegal under EEO law. Also See Minority.
Essential to job performance. The knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience necessary to perform a particular job. Tests are job related if they test whether an applicant or employee can perform the job in question. A rule or practice is job related if it is necessary for the safe and efficient performance of a particular job. For example, a rule prohibiting employees from wearing loose, flowing clothing around high speed rotating equipment is job related. However, the same rule applied in an office with no rotating equipment is not job related, and may have a disparate impact on some ethnic minorities.
Labor Force/Labor Market
Labor Force describes all civilians who are at least 16 years old and not in the military and employed or looking for work. The labor market is a group within the labor force whose members could fill a particular job. To be considered part of the labor market for a GS-5 clerical position, for instance, an individual must meet all minimum job-related requirements for that grade and classification. For most jobs, employers can find enough applicants in the local labor market. For jobs that have high minimum qualifications, employers may need to tap the national labor market to find enough applicants.
Limited English Proficiency (LEP)
The Supreme Court has determined that one type of national origin discrimination is discrimination based upon a person's non-fluency in reading, speaking, writing, or understanding English. Such non-fluency can impact a person's ability to "meaningfully access" federally conducted and assisted programs and activities.
Executive Order 13166 signed by President Clinton in 2000 requires federal agencies and federally assisted entities to examine their programs and services and implement language assistance services where needed, such as oral interpretation services, hiring bilingual staff, telephone interpreter lines, and written translation services. The Department of Justice has issued "four factor analysis" guidance to assist agencies in assessing and providing assistance to reduce such language barriers which may impact an LEP person's entitlement to program benefits, information, and services.
Rules established by the Office of Personnel Management for the federal government to follow in hiring, promoting, and all terms and conditions of employment. One of those rules states that selection and advancement shall be made on the basis of an applicant's or employee's ability, knowledge, and skills in fair and open competition.
The smaller part of a group. A group within a country or state that differs in race, religion or national origin from the dominant group. According to EEOC guidelines, minority is used to mean four particular groups who share a race, color or national origin.
These groups are:
- American Indian or Alaskan Native. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America, and who maintain their culture through a tribe or community.
- Asian or Pacific Islander. A person having origins in any of the original people of the Far East, Southeast Asia, India, or the Pacific Islands. These areas include, for example, China, India, Korea, the Philippine Islands, and Samoa.
- Black (except Hispanic). A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
- Hispanic. A person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
The many peoples with origins in Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East make up the dominant white population. Of course, many more minority groups can be identified in the American population. However, they are not classified separately as minorities under EEO law. It should be noted that women are not classified as a minority. However, they have experienced the same kind of systemic exclusion from the economy as the various minorities. Thus, they are considered as having "minority status" as far as the law is concerned.
National Origin Discrimination
National origin discrimination has been broadly defined as including, but not limited to, the denial of equal employment opportunity because of an individual's or his/her ancestor's country of origin or because an individual has the physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of a particular national origin group.
A target number of qualified women, minorities or persons with disabilities hired and advanced within a given period of time through an Affirmative Employment Program. A numerical goal is not a quota, as it may not be reached within the time frame. It does not permit the hiring or advancement of unqualified employees. Numerical goals provide a standard, which allows an activity to measure the effectiveness of its Affirmative Employment Program. When numerical goals are reached, the percentage of women and minority group members working at appropriate grade levels and classifications will be closer to or at their percentage in the labor market.
Overt discrimination is a specific, observable action taken against a person or class of persons because of protected status, e.g., national origin. This treatment also is referred to as "intentional discrimination."
Example: Failing to interview job applicants based solely on their race (race discrimination).
At first sight; on the first appearance; on the face of it, so far as can be judged from the first disclosure; presumably. A litigating party is said to have a prima facie case when the evidence in his or her favor is sufficiently strong for his or her opponent to be called on to answer it. A prima facie case is one which is established by evidence, and can be overthrown only by rebutting evidence addressed on the other side.
The groups protected from employment discrimination by statute are men and women on the basis of gender; any group which shares a common race, color, national origin, or religion; people over the age of 40; reprisal for prior EEO activity; and people with a mental and/or physical disability. The groups protected from employment discrimination by Executive Order and USDA regulation/policy are those which share a common sexual orientation; political beliefs; marital, familial, or parental status; and protected genetic information.
Each USDA employee is a member of a protected class (this includes White males) and is entitled to protection from illegal employment discrimination. Of historical note, EEO laws were passed to correct a history of unfavorable treatment of women, minorities, and people with disabilities.
Fixed hiring and promotion rates based on race, sex, or other protected class standards, which must be met at all costs. In extreme cases, the courts have assigned quotas to some employers who have continued to practice illegal discrimination. An agency or any other employer cannot use quotas to meet their affirmative employment goals unless a court orders it.
Racial discrimination is present when people are treated differently from others who are similarly situated because they are members of a specific race. It can occur when individuals are treated differently because of unalterable characteristics, such as a physical feature, indigenous to their race. The courts have also found that racial discrimination in employment can occur when employees are treated differently from other employees similarly situated because of their interracial dating or marriages, racially oriented expression of attitudes and beliefs, and/or membership in racially oriented groups.
Adjustments or changes an employer must make in the work schedule or work environment to enable disabled employees to perform their jobs. Widening doorways, installing access ramps, and lowering worktables are considered reasonable accommodations for a person with a disability. Schedule changes that allow employees time off for religious observances are also reasonable accommodations. Adjustments or changes are considered reasonable if they do not have a negative effect on workflow or production, or are unreasonably costly or burdensome to the employer.
Religious discrimination occurs when an employment rule or policy requires a person to either violate a fundamental precept of his or her religion or lose an employment opportunity. The definition of "religion" is not restricted to the major religions. Since the provisions under religion include a lack of belief, atheists are also covered. The coverage under religion includes all aspects of religious observances and practices as well as belief.
A complaint may be filed by an individual who alleges restraint, interference, coercion, discrimination or retaliation for raising a claim of discrimination; or for representing one who has alleged discrimination or serving as a witness; or for advocating equal opportunity for others; or for acting as an EEO official in processing such complaints.
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:
- Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment;
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or
- Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
Special Emphasis Program
A tool used in accomplishing affirmative employment goals. These programs are directed at improving employment opportunities for particular groups and they are required by regulation. Specific efforts of a special emphasis program may include targeting resources and identifying specific individuals to benefit from the resources available. The Federal Women's Program, Hispanic Employment Program and Disability Placement Program are all identified in regulation and addressed in affirmative employment plans.
Inadequately represented in the work force of a particular activity. This term is used to describe the extent to which women, minorities, and persons with disabilities are represented in particular grade levels and job categories. The percentage of women, minorities and persons with disabilities in the labor market is used as a standard to determine underrepresentation. For example, suppose there are 100 GS-12's at an agency; three of them or 3% are black. However, the black labor market for GS-12 positions at that particular activity is 15%. In this case, blacks are underrepresented at the GS -12 level.
To use less than fully; below potential use. This term is often applied to categories of employees who are working at jobs that do not make full use of their skills and abilities, although they may have been hired for those skills and abilities. When an employee is consistently assigned to "dead end" jobs, he or she may be underutilized because they are often seen as able to perform only limited tasks.
Unfair Treatment versus Unlawful Discrimination
Unfair treatment is not necessarily unlawful discrimination. Treating a person unfavorably in comparison to others may violate EEO laws only when that person's protected status is a factor in the treatment. For example, giving one white female a better assignment than another white female similarly qualified may be unfair, but not discriminatory. Giving a white female a better assignment than a similarly qualified minority female may be discriminatory.
Employment decisions should be based only on job-related merit factors. All employees should avoid conduct that undermines fair and equal treatment. Although all unfair treatment may not be discriminatory, it is poor personnel management and should be avoided.
Effective October 1, 2003 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued Management Directive (MD)-715. This directive provides policy guidance and standards for establishing and maintaining an effective affirmative program of EEO under section 7171 of Title VII and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Each manager, supervisor and EEO official will be held accountable for the effective implementation and management of the program based on the six essential elements:
- Demonstrated commitment from agency leadership;
- Integration of EEO into the agency's strategic mission;
- Management and program accountability;
- Proactive prevention of unlawful discrimination;
- Responsiveness and legal compliance.
What are the requirements?
Each district shall establish and maintain a continuing affirmative program of Equal Employment Opportunity as mandated by Section 717 of Title VII and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The initial EEO Plan became effective on October 1, 2004. Thereafter on an annual basis, the Agency must submit an annual EEO Program Status Report.
Status reports must include the annual certification that each agency has a continuing EEO program that is consistent with the requirements and report on activities undertaken and accomplishments made in implementing its EEO Plans.
For more information on the MD-715, please access the MD-715 Webinar.
Fiscal Year 2022 Management Directive 715 Report
This annual report (PDF Only) includes:
- EEO Program Status Report (Parts A-J)
- Annual Report on EEO Complaint Data (462 Report)
- Workforce Data Tables (A Tables) and Workforce Data Tables by Disabilities (B Tables)
In accordance with Federal mandates 29 CFR 1614 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Management Directive 715 for Model Agency Programs (formerly Affirmative Employment), the Civil Rights Division, Office of the Administrator has oversight responsibility over the Agency's Title VII Civil Rights/ Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Program. One tool used to measure compliance is the CARE Program. Equal Employment Opportunity compliance is also included in the Administrator's performance standards and the Agency's Civil Rights Strategic Plan.
CRD developed and implemented the CARE Program in 1999. The Program is designed to provide management with an assessment of their Affirmative Employment Plan (AEP) as well as to reflect employee perceptions of their working environment. The Program also provides recommendations to management on ways to correct deficiencies and/or improve conditions.
Organizational components are selected at random for CARE reviews, unless a Program specifically makes a request. The primary focus of the reviews is AEP policy design and oversight, coordination, and implementation. Program managers are advised at least 30 days in advance of an upcoming review. They are asked to select a liaison to work with the CARE review team and supply essential documentation in support of their EEO Programs. Additional documentation is requested from Human Resources Division.
Managers, supervisors, and non-supervisory employees are interviewed either face-to-face or via a survey instrument while related documentation is simultaneously reviewed. A facility assessment is also a part of the review process to determine accessibility for employees with disabilities and to survey work areas for potentially offensive materials.
Following the comprehensive review and analysis of all information, a written Report of Findings and Recommendations is prepared and disseminated to the respective site manager, his/her Assistant Administrator, and the Department's Office of Civil Rights. The reviewed office has 90 days to provide the status of their implementation of recommendations. An Equal Employment Specialist works closely with the reviewed office to assist with the recommendations and provide support for any EEO-related issues.
I. Overall Best Practices
- Funding is always available to support EEO/CR
- Managers are committed to EEO/CR
- Top-level management is well aware of EEO/CR expectations
- Career goals are discussed during performance appraisals
- Open communication exists between supervisors and employees
- Fair treatment is provided by supervisors
- Distribution and posting of EEO/CR publications
- A good working relationship with CRD
- An open-door policy maintained by managers and supervisors
- Utilization of internships/externships
- Utilization of student employment programs
- Maintenance of Program Web sites
- Utilization of leadership development programs
- Interactive recruitment initiatives with Human Resources Division
II. Common Areas In Need Of Improvement
- Eliminate the false perception that advancement comes without qualifying merit
- Increase participation in Special Emphasis Program observances/activities
- Increase participation in individual development/training plans to enhance career development
- Increase awareness/recognition of employee EEO/CR achievements
- Improve timeliness of performance reviews and distribution of appraisals
- Increase dissemination of EEO/CR information at lower level staff meetings
- Establish and/or increase the overall awareness of EEO Advisory Committees
- Communicate a "ZERO TOLERANCE FOR REPRISAL" regarding EEO complaints
- Participation at job fairs, career days, etc.
III. Corrective Actions Proposed and/or Effectuated
- Pass along relevant information from management meetings to employees
- Establish/publicize EEO Advisory Committees and their activities
- Share/explain the selection process with employees
- Delegate time and resources to increase outreach participation
IV. General Comments
CRD continues to work closely with Agency components. We review documents and listen to the feedback provided by managers, supervisors, and non-supervisory employees. We continue to assist Agency components in highlighting areas in need of improvement or where misconceptions exist. We also provide the necessary guidance and technical assistance for corrective actions.
The goal of the CARE Program is two-fold: 1) to ensure that the Agency is in compliance with Federal laws, regulations and policies; and, 2) to help Program managers establish and maintain a fair and equal working environment for all of its employees.
Civil Rights Staff Directory
5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Bldg. 1, Room 2165
Beltsville MD 20705-5000
Mail Drop 5261
Phone: (301) 504-7755
Fax: (301) 504-2141 or (301) 504-7746
|Office of the Director
|Angela Kelly, Director
|Amanda Krot, Deputy Director
|Tina McLane, Management Analyst
|Danisha Parker, Diversity Program Manager
|Tamara Bond, Counselor
|LaWan Bryan-Head, Counselor
|Melissa Dull, EEO Specialist
|Valerie Williams, EEO Specialist
|Diversity and Inclusion/Policy and Compliance
|Damali Carr, Team Leader
|Manuel Alba, EEO Specialist
|Aleesha Grady, EEO Specialist
|Christopher Small, Program Analyst
|Mediation and Conflict Resolution
|Jodi Hallstrom, Mediator
|Tanja Thompson, Mediator
Equal Opportunity/Civil Rights Complaints
FSIS employees, former employees, and applicants for employment with FSIS may contact the Civil Rights Division, Office of the Administrator by telephone if they believe they have been subjected to discrimination based on race, color, sex (including sexual harassment), national origin, religion, mental or physical disability, age (40 or over), marital or family status, parental status, protected genetic information, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or reprisal because of one's involvement in prior EEO activity. The telephone number for the OCR is 1-800-269-6912. The procedures for the EEO Counseling process are:
A staff member responsible for obtaining information regarding the caller's claim of discrimination will record on the"Intake Form" personal information, i.e., name, address, telephone numbers, etc., as well as the basis and issues raised by the Aggrieved.
The case is assigned to an EEO Counselor.
Contact with the Aggrieved
After the EEO Counselor reviews the information on the Intake Form, contact is made with the Aggrieved by telephone. This first contact may result in the"initial interview." This may include, but is not limited to, verification of the information on the Intake Form, clear definition and agreement regarding the scope of the issues, the rights and responsibilities of the Aggrieved while in the EEO complaint process (right to representation and anonymity, etc.), time frames, extension of counseling process, the right to choose between Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and EEO Counseling and the overall complaint process.
If appropriate, the EEO Counselor will advise the Aggrieved that he or she must elect between the EEO complaint process, the negotiated or administrative grievance procedures, the Merit Systems Protection Board appeal or other special procedures as the forum in which he or she may have their issues processed.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
The EEO Counselor will offer Alternative Dispute Resolution and discuss its benefits in addressing workplace conflicts. The Counselor will also explain that the Aggrieved does not forfeit his or her rights to resume processing of the EEO complaint if the ADR efforts do not result in resolution.
Responding Management Official (RMO)
The EEO Counselor discusses the issues raised by the Aggrieved, requests the RMO's responses to the allegations and discusses potential resolution options.
Role of the EEO Counselor
The EEO Counselor serves as a neutral party in an effort to resolve informal complaints of discrimination initiated by FSIS employees or applicants for employment. Through a series of informal interviews with the aggrieved party, supervisors, managers and other witnesses, an EEO Counselor gathers facts relating to the claim of discrimination, but makes no decisions about the merits of the case or whether there was discrimination. The goal of counseling is resolution of the complaint at the lowest possible level. The informal complaint process may be concluded with a voluntary withdrawal of the complaint, a settlement agreement or a Notice of Right to File a Formal Complaint.
The Aggrieved may request to withdraw his or her informal complaint at any time during the EEO Counseling period. Withdrawal of the complaint automatically renders it closed. The EEO Counselor notifies the Aggrieved of the closure and annotates the database to reflect that the informal complaint was closed through withdrawal.
If resolution is reached, the EEO Counselor prepares a written Settlement Agreement, obtains appropriate approval for implementation of the terms and conditions of the agreement (e.g. Civil Rights Division, program area, Human Resources Division) and submits the agreement to both parties for signature. Once the agreement is signed by all parties, the counselor closes the informal complaint in the database.
Notice of Right to File (NRF) a Formal Complaint
If resolution is not achieved, the EEO Counselor must issue an NRF at the end of the 30-day counseling period, unless the Aggrieved has consented to an extension of up to 60 calendar days for additional processing and resolution efforts. Once the NRF is issued, the counselor records the issuance of the NRF and closes the informal complaint in the database.
EEO Counselor's Report
If the Aggrieved files a formal complaint, the EEO Counselor must prepare a report of counseling within 15 calendar days after the Department has notified the Agency of its receipt of the formal complaint. The EEO Counselor's Report is transmitted to the Department.
Discrimination In Employment Is Illegal!
If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age (40 years and over), mental or physical disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, familial status, protected genetic information, or for reprisal because of prior EEO activity, and you wish to initiate an EEO complaint, you must contact an EEO Counselor within 45 days of the action alleged to be discriminatory, or in the case of a personnel action, within 45 days of the effective date of the action.
FSIS employees and applicants for employment who feel they have been discriminated against should contact:
TDD (301) 504-7756
Or write to:
USDA, FSIS, Civil Rights Division, Office of the Administrator
5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Maildrop 5261
Beltsville, MD 20705-5261
The U. S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Civil Rights (OCR), Employment Complaints Division, is responsible for processing formal complaints of discrimination.
Last Modified Jul 31, 2013
What is Alternative Dispute Resolution?
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a procedure designed to bring together the disputing parties in a complaint in order to provide them an opportunity to resolve the dispute themselves with the assistance of a neutral third party. ADR can be used at all stages of the complaint process. EEO disputants may engage in resolution discussions during the EEO pre-complaint and formal complaint processes.
A neutral third party known as a mediator facilitates resolution of the dispute. The mediator has no power to make a decision or force one on any party. The mediator works with the parties to reach a voluntary agreement of their own.
Can ADR be used during the informal (pre-complaint) stage?
Yes, unless the Agency has determined that a particular case is inappropriate for ADR. When ADR is selected as the method of resolution, the traditional counseling process will cease and the complaint will be referred to Mediation and Worklife Services Division (MWSD) for assignment of a mediator. In all cases, the EEO counselor will conduct the initial counseling session, identify claims and fully inform the individual of their rights, to include the option to elect traditional counseling or ADR. Counselors must inform individuals that if the ADR process is not successful, the complaint will be referred back to the EEO Counselor. The Counselor will then conduct a final interview with the aggrieved within 90 days of the initial contact with the Civil Rights Division, Office of the Administrator and provide the aggrieved a Notice of Right to File a formal complaint.
Can ADR be used during the formal complaint stage?
Yes, unless the agency has determined that a particular case is inappropriate for ADR, it is available at all stages of the formal EEO process. Management and disputants are encouraged to continue attempts to resolve disputes throughout the complaint process, whether through ADR or any other means of informal settlement.
How does the ADR process work?
The process usually begins with a joint session. During the first meeting, the mediator explains the process and how it works, and answers any questions. After each party presents his or her side of the story, the mediator may meet with each party separately, in what is known as a caucus, to discuss the issues in greater detail and to gain a better sense of how the parties would prefer to see the issue resolved.
The mediation process may then continue with a series of separate meetings or continue in a joint meeting with the parties. During these meetings, the mediator will explore with the parties various options for resolving the dispute. The mediator can act in any number of roles, i.e., communicator, translator, agent of reality, etc. The goal of mediation is to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.
Why should you use ADR?
The entire process is confidential. As such, the mediator will not willingly be a witness in a court of law or an administrative process. No written record will be made of the mediation process. However, if a resolution to the complaint is reached during mediation, the terms of the agreement will be reduced to writing.
Secondly, mediation is quick and can result in a win-win situation for all parties. An EEO mediation settlement takes much less time to achieve than the more timely, sometimes bitter and costly process of litigation.
Finally, the disputant does not give up any rights to pursue the matter formally. Mediation is designed to be an informal settlement process and it is entirely voluntary. Either of the parties or the mediator can end the session at any time.
Is ADR right for you?
To assist in choosing whether or not mediation is an appropriate ADR process for your dispute, you should consider the following:
- Does the conflict involve a continuing working relationship?
- Do the parties want the matter settled confidentially and informally?
- Do the parties want to have a voice in shaping an agreement?
Who should be present during the ADR?
Parties can represent themselves or have a representative accompany them to the session. Management's representative must have first hand knowledge of the situation and authority to enter into a resolution agreement with the disputant.
The FSIS informal complaint process covers individual complaints of discrimination based on race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age (40 years and over), mental or physical disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, familial status, protected genetic information, or for reprisal because of prior EEO activity. The informal complaint process also addresses class complaints of discrimination, however these protected bases are limited to those covered by law (e.g. race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, and disability).
Aggrieved Persons have the following rights and responsibilities:
- Written notice within 30 calendar days from initial contact to the EEO counselor terminating the counseling if the concerns have not been resolved. Extensions are permitted with mutual consent.
- Anonymity in the counseling stage unless waived.
- Representation of their choosing throughout the complaint process.
- Filing a formal complaint within specified timeframes at the conclusion of counseling.
- Hearing before an Administrative Judge of EEOC.
- Filing a complaint in Federal District Court.
- Keeping the agency informed of current mailing addresses and representation.
Annual No FEAR Act Reports
- FY 2023 No FEAR Act Report - Annual
- FY 2022 No FEAR Act Report - Annual
- FY 2021 No FEAR Act Report - Annual
- FY 2020 No FEAR Act Report - Annual
- FY 2019 No FEAR Act Report - Annual
Quarterly No FEAR Act Reports
- FY 2023 No FEAR Act Report - Quarter 4
- FY 2023 No FEAR Act Report - Quarter 3
- FY 2023 No FEAR Act Report - Quarter 2
- FY 2023 No FEAR Act Report – Quarter 1
- FY 2022 No Fear Act Report - Quarter 4
- FY 2022 No Fear Act Report - Quarter 3
- FY 2022 No Fear Act Report - Quarter 2
- FY 2022 No Fear Act Report - Quarter 1
- FY 2021 No FEAR Act Report - Quarter 4
- FY 2021 No FEAR Act Report - Quarter 3
- FY 2021 No FEAR Act Report - Quarter 2
- FY 2021 No FEAR Act Report- Quarter 1
- FY 2020 No FEAR Act Report- Quarter 4
- FY 2020 No FEAR Act Report - Quarter 3
- FY 2020 No FEAR Act Report - Quarter 2
- FY 2020 No FEAR Act Report - Quarter 1
- FY 2019 No FEAR Act Report - Quarter 4
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is committed to providing inspection service in a professional and non-discriminatory manner to all federal meat, poultry, egg, and import establishments.
How to file a USDA Program Discrimination Complaint
It is the policy of the USDA to ensure that no person is excluded from, denied the benefits of, or otherwise subjected to prohibited discrimination in programs conducted by FSIS on the bases of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or family status.
To file a complaint of discrimination in the receipt of USDA services, access the form and filing instructions (Español) (PDF Only). (Note: This form is not for use in filing complaints of employment discrimination. FSIS employees must contact the FSIS Civil Rights Division at 1-800-269-6912 within 45 days of the alleged discrimination to file a complaint.
USDA "And Justice For All," Form AD-475A (Assisted) | Form AD-475C (Conducted)
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in the delivery of all programs and services conducted by officials of the FSIS. This poster contains the USDA policy of non-discrimination and the complaint filing address. The poster is prominently located in FSIS office space within official headquarters establishments.
Questions regarding the "And Justice For All" poster or the procedures for filing a program discrimination complaint can be discussed with an FSIS inspector, Front Line Supervisor, or District Office. Alternately, inquiries may be made directly to the USDA's Office of Civil Rights at (866) 632-9992 (toll free), or (202) 402-0216 (TDD).
Limited English Proficiency
- Limited English Proficiency Implementation Strategy for Federally Assisted Programs (PDF Only)
- FSIS Limited English Proficiency Plan for Federally Conducted Programs (PDF Only)
- Limited English Proficiency: Improving Access to Federal Conducted and Assisted Programs and Activities (Webinar)
- Limited English Proficiency Resource: Language Identification ("I Speak") (PDF Only; 6mb; 17 x 11 in.)
- Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Individual Contact Log (FSIS Form 1411-4; PDF Only)
- "I Speak" Cards (U.S. Census Bureau and LEP.gov)
- Limited English Proficiency Web Site
Civil Rights Policy Statements
USDA's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights provides a comprehensive listing of directives and regulations.
- Civil Rights Accountability Policy and Procedures: Departmental Regulation 4300-010
- Policy Statement on First Amendment (PDF Only)
- Secretary's Alternative Dispute Resolution Policy Statement (PDF Only)
- Secretary Civil Rights Policy Statement
- USDA Anti-Harassment Policy Statement (PDF Only)
- USDA Equal Employment Opportunity Policy Statement
- Administrator’s EEO/CR Policy Statement (PDF Only)
- Alternative Dispute Resolution Policy Statement (PDF Only)
- Anti-Retaliation/Reprisal Policy Statement (PDF Only)
- FSIS Directive 1510.2, Use of Official Time in the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Complaint Process
- Limited English Proficiency Policy Statement (PDF Only)
- No FEAR Act Notice (PDF Only)
What are religious beliefs?
Under federal regulations, religious beliefs include theistic beliefs (such as those that include a belief in God) as well as non-theistic “moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.” See 29 C.F.R. §1605.1. Social, political, or economic philosophies, as well as mere personal preferences are not religious beliefs protected by Title VII or USDA prohibitions against religious discrimination.
Why is religious expression a workplace issue at USDA?
Employees should expect to find a diversity of religious backgrounds at USDA and the citizens that we serve. Laws and policies have changed, and all USDA employees need to be aware of their responsibility to prevent religious discrimination, including discrimination against religious expression.
How does USDA interpret its non-discrimination regulations in accordance with the First Amendment?
USDA interprets its regulations consistent with the requirements of the First Amendment, and all actions taken by USDA must comport with First Amendment principles. No regulation should be interpreted to impinge upon rights protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or to require individuals or entities to enact or enforce codes that punish the exercise of such rights.
Does the Secretary’s First Amendment Policy encompass speech regarding same-sex marriage, gender identity, and sexual morality?
Opinions about same-sex marriage, gender identity, and sexual morality are all matters of public importance. Moreover, people often have different perspectives on these topics, which are sometimes informed by their religious beliefs, and feel the need to discuss them. USDA respects the First Amendment rights of USDA personnel, as well as non-USDA personnel working at facilities inspected by USDA, to share their varying viewpoints on these topics, whether through oral discussion, the display or distribution of literature, or other means.
What are the laws and policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion at USDA?
Some of the laws and policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion at USDA include the following:
- The 1978 Civil Service Reform Act states that Federal Agencies cannot "discriminate for or against any employee or applicant for employment on the basis of conduct which does not adversely affect the performance of the employee or applicant or the performance of others" [5 USC 2302(b)].
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers with at least 15 employees, as well as employment agencies and unions, from discriminating in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. [42 U.S.C. 2000e-2(a)(1)].
- USDA regulations provide that “[n]o agency, officer, or employee of the USDA shall, on the grounds of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, family/parental status, income derived from a public assistance program, political beliefs, or gender identity, exclude from participation in, deny the benefits of, or subject to discrimination any person in the United States under any program or activity conducted by the USDA.” [7 C.F.R. §15d.3].
What should I do if I believe I have been discriminated against because of my religion?
There are five avenues of redress available to a Federal employee who wishes to resolve a conflict or file a complaint of discrimination based on religion: (1) Alternative Dispute Resolution; (2) Agency discrimination complaint procedure; (3) Agency or Union grievance procedure; (4) Office of Special Counsel; and (5) Appeals to the Merit Systems Protection Board (for allegations involving personnel actions that are otherwise appealable to the Board). The employee who wishes to pursue conflict resolution or file a discrimination complaint using one of the above options should contact his or her Agency's Office of Civil Rights for specific information.
Where can I go if I have further questions about First Amendment and religious expression issues at USDA?
- USDA Civil Rights, Labor and Employment Law Division, Policy Section, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Office of the General Counsel, Washington, DC 20250, 202-720-1760.
- Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Office of the Secretary, Washington, DC 20250, 202-720-2032.
- You can also contact your Agency's Civil Rights and Human Resources Offices for further information on complaint procedures.
Required Postings in FSIS Office Space
To ensure compliance with EEO and Civil Rights laws and regulations, the posters and policies listed below must be posted in prominent areas within the workplace. Managers and supervisors should ensure that these documents are printed and posted within their respective work units. With respect to the “And Justice for All” poster, the PDF version is provided as a reference only. It is not to be printed and posted as a substitute for displaying the full-sized hard copy version. To order copies of the “AND Justice For All” Poster, contact ASKCRD@fsis.usda.gov.
- USDA And Justice For All Posters (July 2019)
- USDA "Sexual Harassment is Illegal," Form AD-1085
- Secretary Vilsack's Civil Rights Policy Statement
- FSIS Equal Employment Opportunity Counseling Poster, Form 4713-6
- EEOC Know Your Rights poster
- USDA Equal Employment Opportunity Policy Statement
- Equal Opportunity/Civil Rights Complaint Process
- USDA and FSIS Civil Rights Policy Statements
- Non-Discrimination Statement
Special Emphasis Programs (SEP)
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
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.
African American Employment Program (AAEP)
FSIS Collateral Duty AAEP Manager: Samilya Zurawski
Phone: (612) 659-8571
American Indian/Alaska Native Employment Program (AI/ANEP)
FSIS Collateral Duty AI/ANEP Manager: Estella Perez
Phone: (202) 937-4218
Asian American/Pacific Islander Employment Program (AA/PIEP)
FSIS AA/PIEP Manager: Thomas Behan
Phone: (215) 597-4219
Disability Employment Program (DEP)
FSIS Collateral Duty DEP Manager: Vacant
Federal Women's Employment Program (FWEP)
FSIS Collateral Duty FWP Manager: Cortney Burgess
Phone: (601) 965-4312
Hispanic Employment Program (HEP)
FSIS Collateral Duty HEP Manager: Lizette Suro Colon
Phone: (301) 504-7755
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Employment Program (LGBTEP)
FSIS Collateral Duty LGBT Manager: Janine Henley
Phone: (404) 562-5900
For more information about the Special Emphasis Program, contact:
Diversity Program Manager
Civil Rights Staff, Office of the Administrator
Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA
5601 Sunnyside Ave., Bldg. 1, Room 2260, Mail Drop 5261
Beltsville, MD 20705
Phone: (301) 504-7755
Fax: (301) 504-2141