an EEO Complaint
Frequently Asked Questions
Regulations and Guidance
No FEAR Act Data
Frequently Asked Questions
- Who may file an EEO complaint?
- What are the time limits for filing complaints?
- What is the procedure for filing an EEO complaint
- What is the role of the EEO Counselor?
- What is Alternative Dispute Resolution?
- What happens if a formal complaint is filed?
- What happens if a hearing is requested?
- What happens if a final decision is requested?
- How long does it take to process a complaint?
- Is the complaint process confidential?
- Is it possible to have a complaint processed
- Can a complainant have a representative?
- What protection exists for an employee who
files an EEO complaint?
- Must an employee use his/her leave to attend complaint-related
- Can an employee file an EEO complaint and
a grievance on the same matter?
- Can Commissioned Corps officers file EEO
- Who has the authority to accept and/or dismiss
a formal complaint?
- What are some reasons for the dismissal of an
- Is it necessary to go through the counseling
process before a formal complaint can be filed?
- What is my obligation as a complainant or
- Who is the EEO complaint filed against?
- What happens if I am asked to meet with an
EEO Counselor or EEO Investigator?
- WHO MAY FILE AN EEO COMPLAINT?
Any employee, former employee, or job applicant of the National Institutes of
Health (NIH) who believes that he or she has been discriminated against because
of race, sex (including sexual harassment and equal pay), sexual orientation,
color, national origin, religion, age, physical or mental disability, or reprisal
may file an EEO complaint.
- WHAT ARE THE TIME LIMITS FOR FILING COMPLAINTS?
Precomplaints must be filed no later than 45 days following
an alleged discriminatory incident, act, or event; the effective date
of an alleged discriminatory personnel action; or the date that the
aggrieved person knew, or reasonably should have known, of the event
or personnel action. Before a formal complaint can be accepted for
processing, a precomplaint must be filed.
EEO Counselors generally
have up to 30 days to resolve a precomplaint. If necessary, this period
can be extended up to 60 additional days upon written consent of the
aggrieved person. If an aggrieved person elects to use Alternative
Dispute Resolution (ADR), the period will be automatically extended
up to 90 days.
If the aggrieved person opts to file a formal complaint
with the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management (OEODM)
of the NIH, it must be filed within 15 days of receiving the notice
of right to file a formal complaint.
After a formal complaint is investigated,
a copy of the Report of Investigation (ROI) will be sent to the complainant
with a notice of appeal rights. Within 30 days of his or her receipt
of the ROI, the complainant will elect either a request to the EEOC
for a hearing or a Final Agency Decision from DHHS.
For additional information, please see the Revised
29 CFR 1614 Regulations .
- WHAT IS THE PROCEDURE FOR FILING AN EEO COMPLAINT AT NIH?
Any aggrieved person seeking to file a complaint should
contact the OEODM at 301.496.1551 (voice) or 301.480.3122 (TTY) for
- WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE EEO COUNSELOR?
The EEO Counselor's role is to obtain information and attempt
to resolve the precomplaint. The Counselor has 30 days from the date
that counseling was requested to resolve the precomplaint. If it
appears that resolution is imminent, but that additional time is
necessary, the complainant may agree, in writing, to extend the counseling
for an additional period of time, not to exceed 60 days. If the precomplaint
is not resolved, the OEODM will issue a written notice of the right
to file a formal complaint.
- WHAT IS ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION?
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is the use of techniques
other than continued processing in the EEO complaint system to settle
the precomplaint. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 encourages agencies
to use ADR to resolve EEO complaints; and complaint processing regulations
give agencies up to 90 days to resolve precomplaints in which the
aggrieved person has requested the use of ADR. At the time a precomplaint
is filed, the aggrieved person will be given the choice of traditional
EEO counseling or ADR. If ADR does not result in a resolution agreement,
the OEODM will issue to the aggrieved person a written notice of
the right to file a formal complaint.
- WHAT HAPPENS IF A FORMAL COMPLAINT IS FILED?
Formal complaints may be filed with the Office of Equal
Opportunity and Diversity Management (OEODM), NIH, within 15 days
of the receipt of the notice of the right to file a formal complaint.
If the OEODM accepts the complaint, it will be referred for investigation.
If the OEODM dismisses the complaint, instructions will be provided
to the complainant for appealing the dismissal. After the complaint
is investigated, a Report of Investigation (ROI) is submitted to
the OEODM. After being reviewed, the ROI will be sent to the complainant
with a summary of the ROI and appeal rights. Within 30 days of his
or her receipt of the ROI, summary, and appeal rights, the complainant
must submit a request to the EEOC for a hearing or to the OEODM for
a Final Agency Decision from the DHHS.
- WHAT HAPPENS IF A HEARING IS REQUESTED?
If a hearing is requested, the OEODM will refer the ROI to
the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) to have an agency representative
assigned. The EEOC may decide to conduct a hearing, or if few facts
are in dispute, the EEOC may issue findings and recommendations without
If a hearing is granted, it is conducted by an EEOC Administrative
Judge (AJ). Both the complainant and management have the opportunity
to cross-examine witnesses. The Administrative Judge rules on the admissibility
of information and testimony taken during the hearing.
The EEOC has
180 days from the date of the hearing request in which to hold the
hearing and issue a decision to the Agency. Within 40 days of receiving
the EEOC's decision, the Agency has 40 days to issue a final order
that will either implement the AJ's decision or appeal to the EEOC.
- WHAT HAPPENS IF A FINAL DECISION IS REQUESTED?
An Agency must issue a final decision within 60 days of
a complainant's request for a decision. The final decision consists
of findings by the Agency on the merits of each issue in the complaint.
The final decision must also contain a notice of appeal rights to
the EEOC and the right to file a civil action in Federal District
- HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO PROCESS A COMPLAINT?
Federal agencies have 180 days from the filing date of
a formal complaint to investigate the complaint and issue an ROI
to the complainant.
- IS THE COMPLAINT PROCESS CONFIDENTIAL?
Yes, EEO complaints are treated as confidentially
- IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE A COMPLAINT PROCESSED ANONYMOUSLY?
During the precomplaint stage, an aggrieved person may request
and receive anonymity. However, during the formal stage, anonymity
cannot be granted.
- CAN A COMPLAINANT HAVE A REPRESENTATIVE?
A Complainant has the right to a representative at any
point in the complaint process. This may be a relative, friend, co-worker,
or attorney. However, EEO Counselors, EEO Assistants, EEO Specialists,
EEO Managers, or any employee whose official position may create
a conflict of interest cannot be a representative. Reimbursement
for attorneys' fees is possible after supporting documentation of
costs is submitted and approved. Representatives who are not attorneys
are not eligible for payment.
- WHAT PROTECTION EXISTS FOR AN EMPLOYEE WHO FILES AN EEO COMPLAINT?
Section 704a of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as amended,
prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for filing
an EEO complaint.
- MUST AN EMPLOYEE USE HIS/HER LEAVE TO ATTEND COMPLAINT-RELATED
No, an employee involved in the complaint process, i.e.,
as an aggrieved person, representative, or witness, is entitled to
a reasonable amount of official time. However, this time must be requested
and approved before the meeting or appointment.
- CAN AN EMPLOYEE FILE AN EEO COMPLAINT AND A GRIEVANCE ON THE
No, an employee cannot file both a formal complaint and a
grievance on the same matter. However, a person who has filed a grievance
can receive EEO counseling. An election of the EEO process is considered
to have been made at the point the formal complaint is filed.
- CAN COMMISSIONED CORPS OFFICERS FILE EEO COMPLAINTS?
Yes. Commissioned Corps officers can file EEO complaints,
but they are processed differently.
- WHO HAS THE AUTHORITY TO ACCEPT AND/OR DISMISS A FORMAL COMPLAINT?
Complaints may be accepted and/or dismissed by the OEODM
- WHAT ARE SOME REASONS FOR THE DISMISSAL OF AN EEO COMPLAINT?
The reasons for dismissing complaints are found at 29
C.F.R. 1614.107. An agency may dismiss a complaint: that fails to state a
claim or states the same claim that is pending before or has been
decided by the agency or the Commission; that fails to comply with
applicable time limits; that has not been brought to the attention
of an EEO Counselor; that is the basis of a pending civil action;
that is the subject of a Merit Systems Protection Board appeal; that
is moot or regarding a proposed personnel action; when a complainant
cannot be located; when a complainant fails to respond to a written
request for relevant information; that alleges dissatisfaction with
the processing of a complaint; that demonstrates a clear pattern of
misuse or abuse of the EEO process.
- IS IT NECESSARY TO GO THROUGH THE COUNSELING PROCESS BEFORE
A FORMAL COMPLAINT CAN BE FILED?
Yes, Federal sector regulations require that all EEO complaints
proceed through EEO counseling. Counseling provides agencies an
opportunity to resolve complaints at the lowest level. However,
Complainants may amend their complaints with issues that are like
or related to the original complaint at any time before the completion
of the investigation without going back through counseling.
- WHAT IS MY OBLIGATION AS A COMPLAINANT OR WITNESS?
In order for the NIH to implement a fair and objective complaints
processing system, all employees and staff are advised that they are
required to participate in the effort to obtain facts about allegations
of discrimination. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)
Standards of Conduct (45 CFR, part 73) impose a duty to assist DHHS
investigators in the performance of their duties or functions (Section
73.735-302(d)). This requirement includes giving statements and providing
evidence. Violations of the Standards may be cause for disciplinary
action (Section 73.735-1201).
- WHO IS THE EEO COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST?
Complaints alleging violation of Title VII and other anti-discrimination
statutes are filed against the Secretary, DHHS. Although many complainants
name their managers, supervisors, and in some cases their peers in
EEO complaints, legally the complaints (with few exceptions) are
against the agency. The agency is represented in administrative hearings
by the DHHS. Office of General Counsel, and in Federal district
by the U.S. Department of Justice.
- WHAT HAPPENS IF I AM ASKED TO MEET WITH AN EEO COUNSELOR OR
When an EEO counselor or investigator contacts you,
please be cooperative. Counselors do not take sworn testimony,
but investigators do. Give the investigator any documents that
support your responses, and the names and telephone numbers of
other persons with relevant information. The investigator will
determine the relevancy of interviews and documentary evidence.