The EEO complaint system covers only complaints of discrimination based on race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, marital or family status, political beliefs, parental status, or protected genetic information. Complaints of discrimination based on age can be filed by a complainant only if he/she is at least 40 years of age at the time the alleged discriminatory action occurred.
The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Civil Rights Program is officially responsible for processing informal complaints of discrimination.
Step 1: An employee or applicant who believes he/she has been discriminated against, must contact the Agricultural Marketing Service, Civil Rights Program, within 45 days of the alleged act of discrimination to file a complaint. This contact can be made by telephone, fax, e-mail, or letter. The initial contact can be made with any person in the EEO office. The information will be recorded and forwarded to an AMS Counselor.
Step 2: An appointment will be scheduled for the employee or applicant to speak with an EEO Counselor. During this session the details of the incident will be discussed.
Step 3: A Counselor will notify the Responsible Management Official that a complaint has been filed and schedule an appointment to gather and discuss pertinent information on the allegation of discrimination. In addition, the Counselor will collect additional information to be included in the fact-finding mission.
The Counselor is allowed 30 calendar days from the original employee contact to facilitate resolution. Exception: If the employee/applicant agrees in writing to participate in an established Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program, the counseling period may be extended up to 90 calendar days from the initial contact.
Note: The EEO Counselor will not disclose the identity of the employee/applicant unless he/she gives permission.
Step 4: If the complaint is not resolved to the satisfaction of all parties, the counselor will issue the employee a "NOTICE OF RIGHT TO FILE" a formal EEO complaint. This notice requires the employee/applicant to complete background information regarding basis(es), issue(s), name of representative, and counselor involved during the informal process. The employee has 15 days from receipt of the notice to file a formal EEO complaint, in writing, with the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Civil Rights. The complaint should be forwarded to:
USDA, Office of Civil Rights
Chief, Employment Complaints Division
Mail Stop Code 9440
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250
An employee is not required to take Annual Leave to discuss EEO matters with the Civil Rights Program during working hours; however, employees must obtain supervisory permission when leaving assigned work areas.