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Sexual Orientation Discrimination: Complaint Process

The Department of Commerce has a complaint process for redressing claims of sexual orientation discrimination and related retaliation. This administrative process was established in accordance with the Department's non-discrimination policy, Department Administrative Order (DAO) 215-11, and Executive Order 11478, as amended.

DAO 215-11 established the Sexual Orientation Discrimination complaint process, which has three parts:

  • the informal process;
  • the formal complaint process; and
  • the appeal process.

The informal complaint process, also called Counseling, provides complainants and management officials with an opportunity to define the complainant's concerns, obtain information necessary to address the issues, and attempt to resolve the issues informally. Counseling can resolve many workplace conflicts before the parties enter into a formal process that may be both adversarial and lengthy. It also provides an opportunity to learn about other avenues of redress for sexual orientation discrimination claims. Commerce employees and applicants should contact the Bureau EEO Officers to be assigned to a Counselor. Counseling must be initiated within 45 days of the act believed to be discriminatory, the effective date of an alleged discriminatory personnel action, or the date the complainant knew of should have known of the alleged discriminatory action.

The EEO Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process is available for those complaints determined to be suitable for ADR. Mediation is the method of dispute resolution used in this process. Complainant's will be notified if ADR is available for their complaints.

This Sexual Orientation Discrimination complaint process is modeled on the EEO complaint process. The major procedural differences are:

  • there is no opportunity for a hearing: and
  • appeals are directed to the Department's Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration, rather than to the EEOC.

Compensatory damages are not available for claims of sexual orientation discrimination.

For more information, see the OCR booklet, Sexual Orientation Discrimination: Questions & Answers: pdf, web page.

To begin the informal complaint process, contact your Bureau EEO Officer and ask to be assigned to a Counselor. You must complete .

Send questions and comments about this page to [email protected]


OCR booklet: Sexual Orientation Discrimination: Questions & Answers: pdf, web page

Fact Sheet: OCR Quick Facts: Sexual Orientation Discrimination Process: pdf

Executive Order 11478

Executive Order 13087

Commerce Department Administrative Order 215-11: Complaint Process for Sexual Orientation Discrimination

DAO 214-10: Non-Discriminatory Wording and Imagery in Department Communications

Information About Other Avenues of Redress for Sexual

Orientation Discrimination

U.S. Office of Personnel

Management (OPM) booklet - Addressing Sexual Orientation in Federal Civilian Employment: A Guide to Employee's Rights (link to OPM web site)

Equal Employment

Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Fact Sheet - Facts About Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation, Status as a Parent, Marital Status and Political Affiliation - (link to EEOC web site)


Office of Personnel Management

Merit Systems Protection Board

Office of Special Counsel