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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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FAQabout the EEO Counseling Process



?         What if I have a problem, but I am not sure whether to file a complaint?

Any problems or concerns related to workplace issues can be discussed with a counselor.


?         Who can file an EEO complaint?

Any employee, former employee, or applicant for employment who thinks they have been discriminated against may file an EEO complaint.


?         What is covered under the EEO process?

Discrimination on basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability is prohibited by law.  Retaliation against an employee for filing an EEO complaint or participating in the EEO process is also prohibited.  These are the eight bases under which an EEO complaint may be filed.  In addition, discrimination is prohibitedon the basis of marital status, sexual orientation, or any other non-merit factor.  Although a complaint on one of these additional bases may be rejected by EEOC as not under the purview of 29 CFR 1614 (the Federal regulations for complaint processing), employees may seek counseling for issues related to these bases.


?         When must allegations of discrimination be raised?

An individual must seek counseling with an EEO Counselor within 45 calendar days of the date of an alleged act of discrimination.  Some circumstances may permit allegations to be raised after the 45-day time limit; contact an EEO Counselor for advice.


?         What information should I present to the EEO Counselor?

When seeking counseling with an EEO Counselor, be prepared to provide the following information: "I was treated differently because of my (basis(es), when on (date of event), the following happened (issue(s)."  Be prepared to discuss what remedies could resolve the issue(s).  Supporting documentation and names of witnesses are also helpful information to present to the EEO Counselor.


?         How do I contact an EEO Counselor?

If you believe you have been discriminated against, contact the Office of Outreach, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity (ODEO) at (202) 720-3410 or (800) 340-4289.


?         What are the steps in the EEO process?

The first step in addressing allegations of discrimination is to seek counseling with an EEO Counselor.  Contact must be made within 45 calendar days of the alleged incident.  The EEO Counselor has 30 calendar days to provide advice on the EEO process, conduct a limited inquiry into the allegations, and seek to resolve the matter at the lowest level.  The individual seeking counseling may elect to extend counseling up to 60 calendar days.  During the initial informal process, the individual may also elect to participate in mediation which is up to 90 calendar days.  If the issues are not resolved during traditional counseling or mediation, the EEO counselor gives the individual a notice of right to file a formal EEO complaint.


?         What happens if my issue(s) are resolved in EEO counseling?

Typically, the resolution will be documented by the EEO Counselor in a Resolution Agreement which is signed by the individual and a representative of management indicating that the matter is closed.


?         Where do I file a formal EEO complaint?

After the informal EEO process is completed, an employee may file a formal EEO complaint with the USDA, Office of Adjudication and Compliance, Employment Complaints Division, 300 7th Street, SW, ReportersBuilding, Rm. 607, Washington, DC  20004.

Last Modified: 8/12/2016
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