VA EEO Policy
March 14, 2012
TO ALL EMPLOYEES
SUBJECT: The Secretary’s EEO, Diversity, and No FEAR Policy
I expect that each of us is familiar with and committed to our Department’s
equal employment opportunity (EEO), diversity and inclusion, and workplace conflict
resolution goals in serving our Nation’s Veterans.
VA emphasizes Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect and Excellence (I CARE) as
our Core Values. Your embrace of I CARE is critical to ensure a VA environment that
enables full participation, encourages diverse perspectives, and actively supports
constructive conflict resolution. We must be vigilant and proactive in eliminating
discrimination. It is our personal and professional responsibility to recognize,
report, and help stop unlawful discrimination, workplace harassment, and retaliation.
I CARE embraces diversity and inclusion, and empowers all of us who are privileged
to work at VA to contribute our fullest potentials to VA’s mission.
Supervisors and managers bear ultimate responsibility for promoting the complementary
principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace. They are obligated
to enforce the standards for appropriate workplace behavior and must take prompt
action on any conduct that is unlawful. To do this well, we must set the example.
Veterans and their families deserve our unwavering leadership in promoting a fair,
diverse, and inclusive environment.
The attached Policy Statement provides a summary of VA’s workplace policies
with respect to EEO, diversity, and inclusion. Review the Policy Statement with
your staff and colleagues and encourage discussion of these expectations. Your leadership
and participation remain crucial at this time.
Eric K. Shinseki
Summary of VA’s EEO, Diversity, and No FEAR Policies
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is committed to ensuring equal employment
opportunity (EEO), promoting diversity and inclusion, and constructively resolving
workplace conflict in order to maintain a high performing workforce in service to
our Nation’s Veterans. To that end, the Department will vigorously enforce
all applicable Federal EEO laws, regulations, executive orders, and management directives
to ensure equal opportunity in the workplace for all VA employees. VA is strongly
committed to reminding managers and supervisors of their obligations to maintain
an environment free from discrimination, reprisal and retaliation actions. This
document summarizes VA’s EEO and diversity-related policies. For additional
information, please consult the references listed at the end of this memorandum.
EEO and Prohibited Discrimination
VA will not tolerate discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion,
national origin, sex, pregnancy, gender identity, parental status, marital status,
sexual orientation, age, disability, genetic information, political affiliation,
or retaliation for opposing discriminatory practices or participating in the discrimination
complaint process. This applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including
recruitment, hiring, promotions, transfers, reassignments, training, career development,
benefits, and separation. In addition, VA will provide reasonable accommodation
to qualified individuals with disabilities, and accommodations for religious practices,
in accordance with applicable laws and procedures.
VA’s Office of Resolution Management (ORM) is responsible for administering
an impartial and effective complaints-management process to address and resolve
complaints of employment discrimination at the earliest possible stage. Employees
may report allegations of discrimination to ORM at (888) 737-3361. The regulations
governing the Federal EEO complaint process are found in 29 CFR Part 1614. Employees seeking redress under this process must contact an EEO
Counselor in person, by phone, or in writing within 45 calendar days of the date
of the alleged incident. Employees may also report allegations to their
immediate local facility EEO program manager, a management official in their chain
of command; or they may raise discrimination issues through the Negotiated or Administrative
Grievance Process, as appropriate. While a discrimination allegation may be raised
through these additional avenues, it does not constitute initiation
of an EEO complaint with an EEO Counselor through the federal sector EEO complaint
process and it does not extend the 45 calendar-day time limit to initiate an EEO
complaint with the ORM.
While sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, parental status,
marital status, and political affiliation are not listed as protected bases in Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act, discrimination on these bases is strictly prohibited
by VA. Complaints of discrimination filed on these bases will be processed according
to the aforementioned Federal EEO complaint process up to and through the investigation
stage of the EEO process. The VA Office of Employment Discrimination Complaint Adjudication
will issue a Final Agency Decision on the merits of the claim within 60 days of
its receipt of the complaint file. Complaints filed solely on this basis will not
proceed to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Other avenues of redress
available to raise a claim of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender
identity, genetic information, parental status, marital status, and political affiliation
include the Negotiated or Administrative Grievance Process, both of which permit
claims of discrimination, and if otherwise appealable, raising the matter with the
U.S. Office of Special Counsel and/or the Merit Systems Protection Board if the
claim of discrimination is coupled with adverse impact and/or prohibited personnel
practices. While a discrimination allegation may be raised with these avenues, it does not constitute initiation of a complaint through this
internal complaint process and it does not extend the 45 calendar-day time limit
to initiate such complaint with the Office of Resolution Management.
VA is committed to providing reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with
disabilities in accordance with law, unless doing so poses an undue hardship as
provided by the applicable law. For people with disabilities, a reasonable accommodation
is any change in the work environment or in the manner work is accomplished that
enables them to apply for a job, perform the essential functions of their jobs or
enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment. Individuals who believe they
need such accommodation should request accommodation from anyone in their chain
of command, human resources, or EEO. The procedures for requesting and processing
requests for reasonable accommodation are contained in VA Directive 5975.1. Denials
must be discussed with the VA Disability Program Manager or the local general counsel
before conveying the denial to the employee. VA has also established a centralized
reasonable accommodation fund to refund costs associated with some accommodations.
For information on this, contact the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
VA is also committed to providing religious accommodations to employees. Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act of l964 (Title VII) prohibits employers from discriminating
against individuals because of their religion in hiring, firing, and other terms
and conditions of employment. Title VII also requires employers to reasonably accommodate
the religious practices of an employee or prospective employee, unless to do so
would create an undue hardship upon the employer. Individuals who believe they need
such accommodation should request accommodation from immediate supervisors.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Conflict in the workplace is inevitable. Left unmanaged, it can lead to organizational
disruption, high attrition, low productivity, and poor employee morale. To maintain
a respectful, productive, and harmonious work environment, it is the policy of VA
to resolve workplace disputes at the earliest possible stage. VA offers Alternative
Dispute Resolution (ADR) services such as mediation and facilitation to assist parties
in resolving conflicts constructively. ADR involves a neutral third-party working
with the employee, supervisor, or group to engage in constructive communication,
identify issues and concerns, and develop collaborative solutions. I encourage all
VA employees to consult with their Administration’s ADR Coordinator or VA’s
Workplace ADR program for assistance in resolving workplace disputes quickly and
Harassment is a form of discrimination and will not be tolerated. Workplace harassment
is defined as any unwelcome, hostile, or offensive conduct taken on the bases listed
above under prohibited discrimination that interferes with an individual’s
performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Harassment by or against VA employees, applicants, contract employees, clients,
customers, and anyone doing business with VA is prohibited.
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that involves unwelcome sexual
advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a
sexual nature when: (1) submission to or rejection of such conduct is made either
explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of one’s employment, or (2) submission
to or rejection of such conduct by a person is used as a basis for career or employment
decisions affecting that person; or (3) such conduct interferes with an individual’s
performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Both supervisors and employees bear responsibility in maintaining a work environment
free from discrimination and harassment. Employees must not engage in harassing
conduct and should immediately report such conduct to their supervisor, another
management official, collective bargaining unit, Employee Relations Specialists,
Labor Relations Specialists, or ORM, as appropriate. Harassment claims will be handled
confidentially to the greatest extent possible. If an employee brings an issue of
harassment to a supervisor’s attention, the supervisor must promptly investigate
the matter and take appropriate and effective corrective action, as necessary. Allegations
of discrimination and harassment will be taken seriously and appropriate corrective
action—up to and including termination—will be taken if allegations
are substantiated. Supervisors are strongly encouraged to seek guidance from their
local EEO Manager, ORM, Employee and Labor Relations staff, or the Office of the
General Counsel when addressing issues of discrimination or harassment.
No FEAR/Whistleblower Protection
Retaliation and reprisal against Federal employees for opposition to discrimination,
or participation in the discrimination-complaint process is unlawful and will not
be tolerated. These protections are ensured by the Notification and Federal Employee
Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act (No FEAR Act of 2002 - Public Law 107-174).
VA prohibits retaliation and reprisal against Federal employees or applicants for
employment who report violations of law, official wrongdoing, including gross waste,
fraud and abuse of authority. These protections are ensured by the Whisteblower
Protection Act (5 U.S.C. § 2302 (b) 8). Additionally, the right of employees, individually
or collectively, to petition Congress or a Member of Congress, or to furnish information
to either House of Congress, or to a committee or Member thereof, may not be interfered
with or denied (5 U.S.C. § 7211). Protected individuals include complainants, witnesses,
and others who provide information concerning such claims. The U.S. Office of Special
Counsel (OSC), an independent agency of the Federal government, is responsible for
addressing such retaliation or reprisal complaints. OSC is responsible for investigating
all prohibited personnel practices regardless of original contact.
Mandatory Prevention of Workplace Harassment, No FEAR, EEO, Diversity, and Conflict
The No FEAR Act of 2002 requires all employees to take No FEAR training within 90
days of their initial hire and every 2 years thereafter. VA also requires workplace
harassment prevention training for all employees every 2 years. This training is
available to all employees through the VA Talent Management System (TMS). Managers
and supervisors are also required to take mandatory EEO, Diversity and Conflict
Management Training for Managers and Supervisors every 2 years. This training is
mandatory for all senior executives, managers, and supervisors and is available
in face-to-face format and on-line via the TMS.
Toward Diversity and Inclusion
To be an exceptional Federal agency, we must cultivate an inclusive work environment
that reflects the diversity of our global community. Diversity and inclusion in
the workplace are more than legal imperatives; they are business imperatives in
this millennium. This begins with eliminating barriers on the legally protected
bases, yet does not end there. To be fully inclusive, we must define diversity broadly
and leverage the diverse talents of all our human resources. Our Nation’s
Veterans are best served when we create an environment that is free of barriers
to full participation, values diversity of perspectives, and empowers every individual
to contribute to his or her fullest potential. Each one of us bears the responsibility
to ensure that discrimination is not tolerated and that diversity is valued. We
all share the responsibility to ensure we promote the complementary principles of
equity, diversity, inclusion and respect in the VA workplace.
March 14, 2012
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Related Laws, Executive Orders, and Resources:
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended:
Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1975, as amended:
Equal Pay Act of 1963 as amended:
Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation, Status as a Parent, Marital Status and
Guidelines on Religious Exercise and Religious Expression in the Federal Workplace:
Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978:
Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act:
Executive Order 13152, as amended by Executive Order 11478
Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act (No FEAR
Act) of 2002:
H.R. 2981: Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009:
Filing Whistleblower Disclosures: http://www.osc.gov/wbdisc.htm
5 U.S.C. § 721: Employees Right to Petition Congress:
Executive Order 11478, as amended by Executive Order 13087:
EEO Discrimination Complaints Process, VA Directive 5977, February 7, 2007:
All Employees Memorandum entitled Processing Equal Employment Opportunity
Complaints Based on Sexual Orientation dated May 13, 2010, signed by Secretary Shinseki.
Mandatory EEO, Diversity, and Conflict Management Training for Senior Executives,
Managers and Supervisors Memorandum dated May 19, 2010, signed by Assistant Secretary
for Human Resources and Administration.
Diversity Management and EEO, VA Directive 5975, March 29, 2013:
VA Directive 5975.1, Processing Requests for Reasonable Accommodation by Employees
and Applicants with Disabilities:
The Secretary’s EEO, Diversity, and No FEAR Policy Statements
Office of Diversity and Inclusion:
VA Workplace Alternative Dispute Resolution:
Office of Labor-Management Relations: (202) 461-4125
VA Policies on Employee and Management Relations: (202) 772-4169
Office of Resolution Management: http://www.va.gov/orm
U.S. Office of Special Counsel: http:/www.osc.gov
Prohibited Personnel Practices:
New Policy Update
MEMORANDUM FOR ALL EMPLOYEES
SUBJECT: New Guidance re: Secretary’s EEO, Diversity, and No FEAR Act Policy
The purpose of this memorandum is to inform employees of a recent decision issued
by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding employment
discrimination because of an individual’s gender identity or transgender status.
The decision impacts the “EEO and Prohibited Discrimination” section
in the Secretary’s EEO, Diversity, and No FEAR Policy Statement signed on
March 14, 2012. According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the term “gender
identity” refers to an individual's internal sense of being male or female
and the term “transgender” refers to people with a gender identity that
is different from the sex assigned to them at birth.
On April 20, 2012, EEOC ruled that employment discrimination based on gender identity
or transgender status should be considered under the sex discrimination prohibitions
in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Consequently, the Office of Resolution
Management will process complaints of this nature in accordance with the EEO discrimination
complaint process proscribed in 29 CFR 1614.
VA is committed to providing a work atmosphere that is fair, diverse and inclusive
and to provide a workplace free from unlawful discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.
At VA, we all are vigilant and responsible for upholding the fundamental principles
of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
John U. Sepúlveda