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Federal Employment of People with Disabilities

Frequently Asked Questions About Employment Discrimination

What practices and activities may be challenged as employment discrimination?

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination in all employment practices, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, training, and other terms and conditions of employment. Failure to provide reasonable accommodation can also be a form of employment discrimination.

What is the Equal Employment Opportunity complaint process?

The EEO complaint process is a legal process designed to resolve allegations of employment discrimination and retaliation. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is one of the civil rights laws enforced through the EEO complaint process. The Federal sector EEO complaint process has three parts:

  • the pre-complaint counseling process;
  • the formal complaint process; and
  • the appeal process.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is an independent Federal agency that oversees the EEO complaint process and hears appeals of the Department's Final Agency Decisions (FADs) in discrimination complaints. EEOC regulations at 29 C.F.R.§1614 govern the Federal sector EEO complaint process.

What should I do if I think I have been discriminated against because of my disability?

If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your disability, you may contact your operating unit EEO Officer or an EEO Counselor to arrange to receive EEO counseling.

To preserve your right to file a formal EEO complaint, you must make such contact within 45 calendar days of the date the action occurred. The EEO Counselor will provide you with an explanation of your rights and responsibilities in the EEO process, including the option to elect Alternative Dispute Resolution. The EEO Counselor will attempt to assist the parties in reaching resolution, but will not develop or advocate specific terms of the agreement. If these efforts are unsuccessful, the Counselor will notify you of the procedure for filing a formal complaint on the matter.

Please be advised: The EEO complaint process can correct management actions that are proven to be unlawful under EEO laws. It is not, however, a substitute for trying to resolve normal work issues with supervisors, other managers, and co-workers. It cannot correct management actions solely because they are unfair.

What is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?

Agencies now offer employees alleging discrimination the option of the EEO counseling process or the alternative dispute resolution process. Most Federal agencies use mediation as the ADR process.

The mediator is neutral and helps the parties to a discrimination dispute identify the important issues and work out a solution that is agreeable to both sides. The objective of the ADR process is to attempt to resolve allegations of workplace discrimination at the earliest possible stage of the EEO process. If the complaint is resolved through mediation or some other form of ADR, a settlement agreement will set out the terms of the agreement. You are allowed to have a representative during this process if you choose. Contact the relevant agency for specific information on its ADR practices.