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CR Definitions

Equal Employment Opportunity and Civil Rights

A.  USDA Civil Rights Policy Statement

As Secretary of Agriculture, I fully support the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) civil rights, equal employment opportunity, and diversity policies and programs. Improving civil rights throughout USDA is one of my top priorities, and by pursuing this goal together in a transparent and ethical manner we can lead the way in making USDA a model organization. We can turn our challenges into
opportunities to strengthen our service.

The success of today's "People's Department" requires the steadfast support and commitment of every USDA employee. We will have zero tolerance for any form of discrimination or reprisal. There exists no reason to discriminate based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex (including gender identity and expression), sexual orientation, disability, marital or familial status, political beliefs, parental status, receipt of public assistance, or protected genetic information. Our policy at USDA is not only to understand that there will be zero tolerance for any form of discrimination, but to ensure that this standard is maintained throughout the Department. This standard is applicable to every employee and manager at USDA and to every action taken at USDA.

USDA must become a model department of tolerance and inclusion. Only then will we live up to President Lincoln's description of USDA as "The People's Department." Strengthening "The People's Department" is my commitment to you. I expect every employee and manager to demonstrate respect for and adherence to USDA civil rights, equal employment opportunity, and diversity policies and our
program civil rights responsibilities.

To this end, accountability is key. I will hold all employees and managers accountable for doing their part to ensure that all USDA applicants, customers, constituents, and stakeholders are provided equal access to the opportunities, programs, and services available through "The People's Department." Accordingly, I am counting on all senior leaders, managers, and supervisors to model appropriate behavior and to lead by example.

We must all strive to create an inclusive environment in which every employee is respected, trusted, and valued. As we approach the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, USDA must continue to ensure that the civil rights of USDA constituents and employees are respected and protected. We have corrected past errors, learned from past mistakes, and moved into a new era of equitable service and access for all. Let us continue to cultivate and reap the benefits of a diverse USDA workforce that is rich in talent, ideas, background, and experience. The USDA mission depends on it.

(Thomas J. Vilsack , Secretary of Agriculture)

B. EEO and Civil Rights Definitions

Special Emphasis Programs refers to those programs which focus special attention on certain specific under-represented groups as a result of a particular law, regulation, and/or Executive Order.   Click for more information on the Special Emphasis Programs

Special Placement & Veterans Employment Program.   Its policy is to provide equal employment opportunity and to prohibit discrimination in employment because of veteran status or physical or mental disability.

Hispanic Employment, Black Emphasis, & Federal Women's Programs.  Their policies are to provide equal employment opportunities for women, Hispanics, and Blacks in all personnel management policies and practices as well as in NRCS sponsored programs and activities.

EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity): The goal of laws which make some types of discrimination illegal. Under EEO law, only job related factors can be used to determine if an individual is qualified for a particular job. As a result, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was created.

Title VII ensures nondiscrimination in employment on the basis of color, race, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, or reprisal for previous EEO activity. This title, as amended, established the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) to enforce the law.

The word discrimination is often used to mean illegal discriminatory acts. It simply means noticing the differences between things or people that are otherwise alike, and making decisions based on those differences.

Civil Rights Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ensures nondiscrimination in the delivery of any program, service, or activity funded by the Federal Government.

For a complete description on policy and guidelines, visit NRCS Directives website for GM Title 230 Part 405 Equal Opportunity in Program Delivery.

C. EEO and Civil Rights Complaint Procedure

Title VII - EEO Complaint Procedure (Employment Issues) You must first contact an EEO Counselor within 45 days of the alleged discriminatory incident or of reasonably learning of the possible discriminatory nature of the incident. The EEO Counselor has 30 days to resolve the issue informally. If the matter has not been resolved, the aggrieved person shall be informed in writing by the counselor of the right to file a formal discrimination complaint.

Contacting an EEO Counselor:

NRCS Civil Rights Employment Division
Beltsville, MD 20705 Mail Stop #5472
Phone: (301) 504-2181

Title VI - Civil Rights Complaint Procedure (Program Delivery Issues) A complaint may be filed verbally or by letter. The complaint should be filed directly with the USDA Office of Civil Rights, or with the local NRCS office. It must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory incident. If it is filed with the local office, the complaint will be forwarded to the USDA Office of Civil Rights within one business day. In turn, they will forward it to the Director of the NRCS Civil Rights Compliance Division. The Director coordinates with the State Conservationist to prepare a response. NRCS has 24 days to respond to or resolve the complaint.

Call or write to file with the office of Civil Rights:

USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights
14th and Independence Ave, SW Mail Stop 9410
Washington, DC 20250-9410
Phone (202)720-5964
Fax (202) 205-2891

For more information, click NRCS Website for Compliance, Procedures, and Programs