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No FEAR Act Notice

May 12, 2017

During the COVID-19 pandemic, federal agencies have limited access to mail and fax. Please use email and online filing systems during this time.

On May 15, 2002, Congress enacted the “Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002,” which is now known as the No FEAR Act. One purpose of the Act is to “require that Federal agencies be accountable for violations of antidiscrimination and whistleblower protection laws.” Pub. L. 107-174, Summary. In support of this purpose, Congress found that “agencies cannot be run effectively if those agencies practice or tolerate discrimination.” Pub. L. 107-74, Title I, General Provisions, § 101(1).

The Act also requires this agency to provide this notice to Federal employees, former Federal employees, and applicants for Federal employment to inform you of the rights and protections available to you under Federal antidiscrimination, civil service, whistleblower protection, and retaliation laws.

Antidiscrimination Laws

A Federal agency cannot discriminate or tolerate harassment against any employee or applicant for employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, sexual orientation, and transgender status), national origin, age (40+), disability, genetic information, marital status, parental status, political affiliation, military service, union activities, protected equal employment opportunity (EEO) activity, whistleblower activity, or any other non-merit factor. Discrimination and harassment on these bases is prohibited by Federal statutes and Executive Orders. See 5 U.S.C. §§ 2302(b); 5 U.S.C. §§ 7101-7135; 29 U.S.C. § 206(d); 29 U.S.C. § 633a; 29 U.S.C. § 791; 38 U.S.C. §§ 4301-35; 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16; 42 U.S.C. § 2000ff et seq.; E.O. 11478; E.O. 13087; E.O. 13145; E.O. 13152; E.O. 13672.

To pursue your rights under these statutes and executive orders, you may need to follow specific rules and meet certain deadlines. For instance:

  • If you believe that you have been the victim of unlawful discrimination and wish to pursue a discrimination claim on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, transgender status or sex stereotyping of any kind), national origin, age, disability, genetic information, or parental status, you may file a formal complaint of discrimination with the SEC’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity (OEEO). To file a complaint of discrimination, you first must contact an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Counselor. (See contact information for the OEEO below.)
  • You must contact an EEO Counselor within 45 calendar days of the alleged discriminatory action, or, in the case of a personnel action, within 45 calendar days of the effective date of the  action. Failure to meet these timeframes could result in forfeiting your legal right to redress the discrimination. See 29 C.F.R. Part 1614.
  • In the alternative, if you are a bargaining-unit employee and you believe that you have been the victim of unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, sexual orientation, and transgender status), national origin, age (40+), disability, or genetic information, you may file a grievance through the SEC’s negotiated grievance procedures. You may not file both a timely written grievance under the negotiated grievance procedures and a formal complaint of discrimination with OEEO on the same matter.  Consultation with an EEO Counselor does not constitute filing a formal OEEO complaint.  If you file a timely written grievance over an issue, but fail to include a related discrimination allegation, you still could be precluded from filing a formal complaint of discrimination with OEEO over the same matter.
  • For more information, read the Equal Employment Opportunity section (Article 21) of the SEC-NTEU collective bargaining agreement. You may also contact the National Treasury Employees Union – Chapter 293 (as applicable) or the Labor Relations team in the Office of Human Resources (OHR).
  • If you believe that you have been the victim of unlawful discrimination on the basis of age (40+) in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, you may proceed through the administrative EEO process by contacting an EEO Counselor within 45 calendar days. Alternatively, you can choose to file an age-discrimination lawsuit in an appropriate United State district court. If you choose this direct-suit option, you must first give the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) notice that you intend to sue. You must give the EEOC this notice at least 30 days before you file your lawsuit in court. This notice-of-intent-to-sue may be filed in writing with the EEOC at ofo.eeoc@eeoc.gov.  You may also file the notice by mail at P.O. Box 77960, Washington, D.C. 20013 or by facsimile (if the fax is 10 or  pages or less), at (202) 663-7022. Finally, you may file this notice by personal delivery to the EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations/Federal Sector Programs Branch at 131 M Street, NE, Washington, D.C. 20507. 
  • You must file this notice of intent to sue within 180 calendar days of the alleged discriminatory action. See 29 C.F.R. § 1614.201(a).
  • If you believe that you have been the victim of sex-based pay discrimination in violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, you may proceed through the administrative EEO process by contacting OEEO to request EEO counseling within 45 calendar days. Alternatively, you may file a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction within two years (or, if the violation is willful, three years) of the date of the alleged Equal Pay Act violation. Contacting an EEO Counselor in the SEC’s OEEO does not suspend or toll the two or three-year deadline for filing a civil action. See 29 C.F.R. § 1614.408.
  • Sex-based pay disparities also may violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and individuals may challenge sex-based pay discrimination simultaneously under both the Equal Pay Act and Title VII. However, if you wish to allege that a pay disparity violates Title VII, you must raise the Title VII allegation in the administrative EEO process by contacting OEEO to request EEO counseling within 45 calendar days – even if you also file an Equal Pay Act civil action over the same alleged pay disparity.
  • If you are alleging discrimination based on marital status, political affiliation, or any other non-merit factor, you may file a written complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), contact information below. (See also “Whistleblower Protection Laws/Prohibited Personnel Practices,” below.)
  • If you are alleging discrimination based on military service, you may request assistance from the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), or OSC, depending on the circumstances.
  • If you are alleging discrimination based on membership or non-membership in a union, or for union activities, you may request assistance from the National Treasury Employees Union – Chapter 293 (if applicable) or the U.S. Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA).

Whistleblower Protection Laws

A Federal employee with authority to take, direct others to take, recommend or approve any personnel action must not use that authority to take or fail to take, or threaten to take or fail to take, a personnel action against an employee or applicant because of disclosure of information by that individual that is reasonably believed to evidence violations of law, rule or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; an abuse of authority; or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, unless disclosure of such information is specifically prohibited by law and such information is specifically required by Executive Order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or the conduct of foreign affairs.

Retaliation against an employee or applicant for making a protected disclosure is prohibited by 5 U.S.C. 2302(b) (8). Additionally, the Inspector General Act (5 USC Appendix 3, sec. 7) prohibits reprisal against any employee for making a complaint or disclosing information to an Inspector General. If you believe that you have been the victim of whistleblower retaliation, you may file a written complaint (Form OSC-11) with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel at 1730 M Street NW., Suite 218, Washington, DC 20036-4505 or you may file online through the OSC Web site — http://www.osc.gov. You may also report retaliation to the SEC Office of Inspector General by contacting the OIG Hotline at 1-877-442-0854, or www.reportlineweb.com/sec_oig.

Retaliation for Engaging in Protected Activity

Federal agency cannot retaliate against an employee or applicant because that individual exercises his or her rights under any of the Federal antidiscrimination or whistleblower protections laws listed above. If you believe that you are the victim of retaliation for engaging in protected activity, you must follow, as appropriate, the procedures described in the Antidiscrimination Laws and Whistleblower Protection Laws sections or, if applicable, the administrative or negotiated grievance procedures in order to pursue any legal remedy.

Disciplinary Actions

Under the existing laws, each agency retains the right, where appropriate, to discipline a Federal employee who has engaged in discriminatory or retaliatory conduct, up to and including removal. If OSC has initiated an investigation under 5 U.S.C. 1214, however, according to 5 U.S.C. 1214(f), agencies must seek approval from the Special Counsel to discipline employees for, among other activities, engaging in prohibited retaliation. Nothing in the No FEAR Act alters existing laws or permits an agency to take unfounded disciplinary action against a Federal employee or to violate the procedural rights of a Federal employee who has been accused of discrimination.

Additional Information

For further information regarding the No FEAR Act regulations, refer to 5 CFR 724, as well as the appropriate offices within your agency (e.g., EEO/civil rights office, human resources office, legal office or the Office of Inspector General). Additional information regarding Federal Antidiscrimination, Whistleblower Protection and Retaliation Laws can be found at the EEOC Web site http://www.eeoc.gov and the OSC Web site -- http://www.osc.gov.

Existing Rights Unchanged

Pursuant to section 205 of the No FEAR Act, neither the Act nor this notice creates, expands or reduces any rights otherwise available to any employee, former employee or applicant under the laws of the United States, including the provisions of law specified in 5 U.S.C. 2302(d).

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