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Other Antidiscrimination Law Information

May 12, 2017

SEC’s Policy

It is the policy of the SEC to provide equal opportunity to all employees and applicants for employment. The SEC has no tolerance for workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. It takes all allegations of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation seriously.  Everyone deserves to work in an environment where they will be treated fairly and equitably, and where they can participate fully in all benefits of employment, including recruitment, hiring, compensation, appraisals, awards, training, career development, promotions, and all the terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.

Personnel actions affecting any term or condition of employment may not be based on an individual’s:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, transgender status, gender identity or expression, gender non-conformity, or sex stereotyping of any kind)
  • National origin
  • Disability
  • Age (40 years or older)
  • Genetic information
  • Parental status
  • Political affiliation
  • Marital status
  • Uniformed status
  • Membership in a labor organization or union activities
  • Prior equal employment opportunity (EEO) or whistleblower activity, or
  • Any other factor unrelated to merit

Learn more about rights and responsibilities under anti-discrimination laws from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Office of Special Counsel (OSC), Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), and Department of Labor (DOL-VETS).

Learn about the procedure for filing an EEO complaint related to employment-related actions of the SEC.

Harassment Is Prohibited

SEC is committed to fostering a workplace that is professional at all times. To support this goal, SEC maintains two separate and distinct processes for reporting workplace harassment. Each process serves a different purpose.

The first process is the “federal sector EEO complaint process.” The purpose of the federal sector EEO complaint process is to give individuals who believe they have been the victims of unlawful harassment a neutral forum to file discrimination claims and obtain relief for any violations of statutory anti-discrimination laws within the EEOC’s jurisdiction. The SEC has established an analogous process for claims based on parental status.

The second process, the harassment-prevention process, is the responsibility of all SEC managers and supervisors, with support from the SEC Offices of Human Resources, General Counsel, Inspector General, and Equal Employment Opportunity. This process alerts management of harassment concerns and works to stop inappropriate conduct before it becomes unlawful.

Retaliation Is Prohibited

Personnel actions affecting any term or condition of employment may not be in retaliation for an individual’s prior EEO activity including:

  • Opposition to the types of discrimination (including harassment and retaliation) listed above, or
  • Participation in any stage of the EEO process or in a harassment inquiry

Retaliation, also sometimes referred to as “reprisal,” is a form of discrimination. It is the taking of any materially adverse action (e.g., demotion or dismissal) against an individual because of (1) prior participation in the EEO or harassment prevention process or (2) opposition to discriminatory practices.

Unlawful retaliation is very broadly defined. Any action likely to deter EEO activity or that might exert a chilling effect on willingness to engage in protected EEO activity may be retaliatory.

Anti-retaliation protections also exist for persons who engage in covered whistleblowing.

Reasonable Accommodation for Disability Is Provided

Pursuant to Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, SEC provides reasonable accommodation for employees or applicants with disabilities who request it to perform the duties of a position or to participate in the application process.

Unlike other anti-discrimination laws that focus on equal treatment for all persons, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation, if needed, to those with disabilities to ensure a level playing field.  The Rehabilitation Act may require employers to provide changes that are unique to that individual and not offered to others without a disability, unless doing so would cause undue hardship.

A “reasonable accommodation” is a modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that will allow qualified persons with disabilities to perform essential job functions and to enjoy the same privileges of employment as those without disabilities. Examples of workplace modifications and adjustments may include:

  • Providing qualified readers or sign-language interpreters
  • Allowing time off for medical treatment
  • Providing special equipment or software such as a voice-activated typing program
  • Changing policies (e.g., modifying work schedules or permitting telework)

“Undue hardship” means significant difficulty or expense and focuses on the resources and circumstances of the particular employer in relationship to the cost or difficulty of providing a specific accommodation. Undue hardship refers not only to financial difficulty, but to reasonable accommodations that are unduly extensive, substantial, or disruptive, or those that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business. An employer must assess on a case-by-case basis whether a particular reasonable accommodation would cause undue hardship. (The undue-hardship standard for disability accommodation is different from that applied under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for religious accommodation, described below.)

Personal Assistance Services (PAS) Are Provided

Federal agencies like SEC must provide “personal assistance services” (PAS) as a form of affirmative action. PAS provide employees with targeted disabilities "assistance with performing activities of daily living that an individual would typically perform if they did not have a disability, and that is not otherwise required as a reasonable accommodation, including, for example, assistance with removing and putting on clothing, eating, and using the restroom." PAS must be performed by a personal assistance service provider. SEC provides PAS to employees who need them when they telework under a telework policy or telework as a reasonable accommodation. SEC also provides PAS when needed because of job-related travel.

SEC Facilities, Program and Activities, and Technology Are Accessible

SEC is committed to complying with Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and with the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968. Under the Rehabilitation Act, agencies like SEC must make sure that their programs and activities—including their educational materials, public events, and electronic and information technology (such as this website)—are accessible to people with disabilities. Under the Architectural Barriers Act, SEC buildings and facilities must also be readily accessible to people with disabilities.

People with disabilities can request an accommodation to allow them to participate in or benefit from SEC programs and activities that would not otherwise be accessible because of a disability.

Reasonable Accommodation for Religion Is Provided

SEC also provides reasonable accommodation for the religious practices and beliefs of employees and applicants for employment.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires that SEC provide equal access and employment opportunities to individuals with religious beliefs and practices by providing reasonable accommodations, unless doing so would cause undue hardship on the operation of SEC’s business. An accommodation may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.

If an employee or an applicant requests a reasonable accommodation for a religious belief, observance, or practice, SEC may be required to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment that will allow the person to practice their religion.

Examples of an accommodation for a religious belief may include:

  • The scheduling of breaks to coincide with prayer time;
  • The use of leave to attend a religious service;
  • The wearing of religious dress, such as a Jewish yarmulke or a Muslim headscarf, or wearing certain hairstyles or facial hair, such as Rastafarian dreadlocks or Sikh uncut hair and beard; and
  • The scheduling of hiring interviews around days of religious observances.

For help with the process, contact ReligiousAccommodation@sec.gov.

Applicable Federal Antidiscrimination Laws, Regulations, Directives, and Executive Orders

Federal Laws

  • Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA): Protects men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment from sex-based wage discrimination.
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII): Prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, and sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, transgender status, gender identity or expression, gender non-conformity, or sex stereotyping of any kind), and retaliation for engaging in protected EEO activity.
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA): Protects individuals who are 40 years or older from age discrimination in the workplace, and from retaliation for engaging in protected EEO activity.
  • Sections 501, 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Prohibits discrimination against qualified persons with disabilities who work in the Federal government, and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation and ensure accessibility for members of the public. The Rehabilitation Act also prohibits retaliation against individuals for engaging in protected EEO activity.
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978: Makes it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Civil Service Reform Act of 1978: Prohibits Federal agencies from discriminating or retaliating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status, political affiliation, whistleblowing, and other non-merit factors.
  • Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 and Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012: Protects and strengthens protections for Federal whistleblowers who work for the government and report agency misconduct. A whistleblower is an individual who discloses information they reasonably believe shows: a violation of any law, rule or regulation; an abuse of authority; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or censorship related to scientific research (if censorship meets one of the above-listed categories). Current and former Federal employees and applicants for Federal employment may make confidential disclosures to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and the SEC Inspector General.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1991: Provides monetary damages in cases of intentional discrimination; allows for complainants to have a jury trial, if requested, once the complaint has reached the federal courts; and provides a 90-day period for complainants to file court action after receipt of a final agency decision.
  • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act of 1994 (USERRA): Prohibits discrimination based on uniformed status.
  • Administrative Dispute Resolution Act of 1996: Provides for agencies to use alternate means for a resolution of disputes in the Federal administrative EEO process.
  • Section 301 of the No Fear Act of 2002: Requires each agency to post quarterly on its public website certain summary statistical data relative to EEO complaints filed against them under 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1614. These statistics are updated quarterly. This act also requires that agencies notify current and former employees, as well as employment applicants, of their rights and protection against discrimination, retaliation and whistleblower actions.
  • Title II of Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act of 2008 (GINA): Makes it illegal to discriminate against employees or applicants because of genetic information. Title II prohibits the use of genetic information in making employment decisions and restricts employers and other covered entities from requesting, requiring or purchasing genetic information. Title II also strictly limits the disclosure of genetic information. GINA also prohibits retaliation for engaging in protected EEO activity
  • Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009: Mandates that the limitations period for filing a claim of pay discrimination resets with the issuance of each new paycheck affected by that discriminatory action.
  • Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017: Increases whistleblower protections for Federal employees, promotes awareness about these protections, and introduces disciplinary measures for retaliation against whistleblowers.
  • Federal Service Labor/Management Relations Statute: Prohibits discrimination based on union membership and activities.
  • Elijah E. Cummings Federal Employee Antidiscrimination Act of 2020: Strengthens accountability measures for EEO law compliance and EEO Program management

Federal Antidiscrimination Regulations and Directives

  • 29 C.F.R. Part 1614: Sets forth responsibilities and guidelines for establishing and maintaining an EEO program in the Federal government.
  • EEOC Management Directive 110 (MD-110): Prescribes the procedures and guidelines from the EEOC for processing complaints of discrimination in the federal sector.
  • EEOC Management Directive 715 (MD-715): Prescribes the EEOC’s requirements for developing a model EEO program in the Federal sector through the identification of barriers to equal employment opportunity and the development of action items to eliminate such barriers.

Federal Antidiscrimination-Related Executive Orders

  • EO 11478: Prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and age. (This is also prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.)
  • EO 13152: Prohibits discrimination based on parental status.
  • EO 13087: Prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender stereotyping. (This is also prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.)
  • EO 13672: Prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. (This is also prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.)
  • EO 13145: Forbids requesting or requiring genetic information from an employee or his/her family members. (This is also prohibited under Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008.)
  • EO 13985: Requires the federal government to pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.

  • EO 13988: Requires federal agencies to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.

  • EO 14035:  Sets forth requirements related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the federal workforce

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