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Definitions

 

Administrative Judge (AJ): An official assigned by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to hold hearings on formal complaints of discrimination and to otherwise process individual or class complaints for the EEOC.

Age Discrimination: A claim of discrimination based on age by an individual who is at least 40 years of age at the time of the alleged discriminatory act.

Aggrieved Person: A person who believes that he/she has been discriminated against in some way and makes his/her concerns known.

Basis: A basis is the "reason" alleged for discrimination. An EEO complainant would be asked about a basis, or reason, when bringing forward a complaint. Bases (protected groups) under EEO are: race, color, national origin, religion, age, sex (including sexual harassment, gender identity, sexual orientation, gender discrimination), physical or mental disability, and reprisal/retaliation (for previous participation in EEO process).

Complaint: A complaint is an allegation of illegal discrimination that is handled through an administrative procedure. A complaint may result when an employee believes he or she has been unfairly treated because of race, color, national origin, religion, age (40 or older), sex, physical/mental disability, or previous participation in the EEO process. The allegation itself is not proof that illegal discrimination has taken place. The investigation that follows the acceptance of issues from a formal complaint will provide the basis for a determination as to whether or not illegal discrimination has, in fact, occurred.

Complainant: An employee, a former employee, or an applicant for employment who files a formal complaint of discrimination based on his or her race, color, national origin, religion, age, sex (including sexual harassment, gender identity, sexual orientation, gender discrimination), physical or mental disability, or previous participation in EEO process.

Disability: As used in reference to the EEO arena, and as defined in the Rehabilitation Act, means a person who:

  • Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of a person's major life activities;
  • Has a history of such impairment; or
  • Is perceived as having such an impairment.

Discrimination: Any act or failure to act, impermissibly based in whole or in part on a person's race, color, national origin, religion, age, sex (including sexual harassment, gender identity, sexual orientation, gender discrimination), physical or mental disability, and reprisal/retaliation (for previous participation in EEO process), that adversely affects privileges, benefits, working conditions, results in disparate treatment, or had a disparate impact on employees or applicants.

Disparate Impact: Under EEO law, less favorable effect for one group than for another. Disparate impact results when rules applied to all employees have a different and more inhibiting effect on a specific group of people. For example, nonessential educational requirements for certain jobs can have a disparate impact on minority groups looking for work, as they often have been limited in their access to educational opportunities.

Disparate Treatment: Inconsistent application of rules and policies to an individual(s) based on race, color, national origin, religion, age, sex (including sexual harassment, gender identity, sexual orientation, gender discrimination), physical or mental disability, and reprisal/retaliation (for previous participation in EEO process).

EEO Counselor: An employee of the EEO Office, working under the direction of the EEO Manager, who makes informal inquiries and seeks resolution of informal complaints.

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO): The goal of laws which make certain types of discrimination in employment illegal.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): The Federal agency with overall responsibility for federal sector complaints. The EEOC issues policy and regulations on the discrimination complaint system, holds hearings and makes findings and recommendations on discrimination complaints, and makes final decisions on discrimination complaints that have been appealed. It also reviews, upon request, decisions of negotiated grievances and Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) appeals if they include issues of discrimination.

Formal Complaint: The second step in the EEO process. A written complaint, DI Form 1892, is filed under 29 CFR 1614, alleging that a specific act of discrimination or reprisal has taken place that is personal to the individual.

Hearing: The presentation of such oral and written evidence concerning a complaint of discrimination presented before the EEOC.

Informal Complaint: The first step of the EEO process. A matter of alleged discrimination which an aggrieved person brings to the attention of the EEO Counselor. The informal stage is attempted before a formal discrimination complaint is filed.

Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB): The federal agency responsible for deciding appealable personnel actions and mixed case appeals.

Mixed Case Appeal: An appeal filed with the MSPB which alleges that an adverse personnel action resulted, in whole or in part, because of discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, age, sex (including sexual harassment, gender identity, sexual orientation, gender discrimination), physical or mental disability, reprisal/retaliation (for previous participation in EEO process), or action which resulted in sex-based wage discrimination.

Mixed Case Complaint: A complaint involving an action appealable to MSPB which alleges that the action was taken because of discrimination. Actions appealable to the MSPB include but are not limited to removals, demotions, suspensions for more than 14 days, reductions-in-force, and furloughs for less than 30 days.

Official Time: Under 29 CFR Section 1614.605, complainants have a right to a "reasonable" about of official time, if otherwise on duty, to prepare a complaint filed under this regulation. The complainant is not obligated to change work schedules, incur overtime, or pay travel. When the an EEOC Administrative Judge requests the complainant's presence in connection with a complaint, the complainant will be granted official time for the duration of such meeting or hearing regardless of the tour of duty. Employees must arrange in advance with their supervisors to use this duty time. Disagreements as to what is "reasonable" time are resolved by the activity Commander or his/her designee. "Reasonable duty time" includes all time actually spent in meetings and hearings required by an EEOC official, plus a reasonable amount of preparation time. Reasonable time is generally defined in terms of hours rather than days, weeks, or months.

Office of Federal Operations (OFO): The EEOC component that handles all administrative appeals to the EEOC.

Prima Facie: This Latin term translates as "on first view", or "at first appearance". In EEO cases, complainants present evidence and arguments to support a claim of discrimination. If those arguments cannot be rebutted with additional evidence, the claim will be supported by the court within further argument. Thus, a prima facie case is established.

Protected Class: The groups protected from the employment discrimination by law. These groups include men and women on the basis of sex; any group which shares a common race, religion, color, or national origin; people over 40; and people with physical or mental disabilities. Every U.S. citizen is a member of some protected class, and is entitled to the benefits of EEO law.

Reasonable Accommodation: Any change in the work environment, in the way things are customarily done, or in the application process that enables a person with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. The three general categories of reasonable accommodation are changes to: (1) job application process to permit people with disabilities to be considered for jobs; (2) enable people with disabilities to perform the essential functions of a job; and (3) give people with disabilities equal access to the benefits and privileges of employment.

Report of Investigation (ROI): The report prepared by an investigator after a formal discrimination complaint is filed, accepted for processing, and is investigated.

Representative: A person selected and designated in writing by a complainant or the class agent. The representative may accompany, represent, and advise in the complaint process.

Reprisal/Retaliation: Mistreatment of employees because they filed a previous EEO complaint, participated in a previous EEO discrimination proceeding (such as providing a witness statement for an EEO complaint), or were closely associated with someone who filed an EEO complaint.

Sexual Harassment: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and/or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature based on one or more of the following conditions a) Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment b) Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual c) Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

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