The Department of Commerce Office of Civil Rights administers the formal EEO Complaint Process which may be used by Department of Commerce employees and applicants for employment to raise issues of discrimination based on the following: race, color, sex (including sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and gender identity), religion, national origin, genetic information, sexual orientation, Age (40 years of age and older), and disability (mental and physical).
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) process is governed by the regulations, management directives, guidance, and case law of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), as well as applicable federal court cases. The EEO process consists of three parts:
- The informal process, also called EEO Counseling, provides an opportunity to define the complainant's concerns, obtain information necessary to address the issues, and attempt to resolve the issues informally. This process is administered by Bureau EEO Officers. You must see an EEO Counselor within 45 days of the action believed to be discriminatory, the effective date of a personnel action, or the date that you have enough information to reasonably suspect that you have a valid EEO claim, and you must complete EEO counseling before filing a formal complaint.
- The formal EEO complaint process is a legal procedure for the consideration of claims of employment discrimination based on race, color, sex (including sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and gender identity), national origin, religion, age (40 years of age or older), genetic information, sexual orientation, and disability (mental and physical). Claims of retaliation for opposing these types of discrimination or for participating in the EEO complaint process can also be raised. If a complaint meets procedural requirements established by regulation, an investigation is conducted. In most cases, complainants may also elect to have a hearing before an EEOC Administrative Judge. The formal complaint process ends when the Department issues a Final Agency Decision (FAD) on the complaint.
- The appeal process allows complainants to appeal FADs to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Merit decisions in mixed case complaints -- complaints on issues that are appealable to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) -- are first appealed to the MSPB.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is also available throughout both the informal and formal complaint processes, if the complaint is determined to be suitable for ADR.
The informal counseling process is administered by the Bureau EEO Officers. The Department's Office of Civil Rights administers the formal complaint process for all bureaus, except the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). At the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), the Bureau EEO Officer administers both the informal and formal complaint processes. Contact the PTO EEO Office for more information.
Four federal civil rights laws are enforced through the EEO complaint process:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended;
- the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; and
- the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended.