Program Complaint of Discrimination | Civil Rights Division | NRCS | HOW TO FILE
PROGRAM DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINTS PROCESS (TITLE VI)
It is NRCS’s policy to treat all customers and employees equitably regardless of race, color, national origin, sex (including gender identity and expression), religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital or familial status, parental status, protected genetic information or because all or a part of an individual's income is derived from any public assistance program. It is also our policy that customers and employees be free from reprisal or harassment in the pursuit of fairness and equal employment opportunities.
GENERAL PROGRAM COMPLAINT INFORMATION
- The NRCS CRD is responsible for facilitating the agency’s actions pertaining to program complaints of discrimination. All program complaints of discrimination will be forwarded to the Department for processing.
- The Department’s OASCR office enters all correspondence and actions in the Program Complaints Management System (PCMS). This system is currently used by OASCR to manage all agency program complaints. The OASCR determines if the document or information (allegations/issues) received is a discriminatory complaint.
- If accepted, the OASCR issues an acknowledgement letter to the complainant indicating: the date of the complaint, the date the complaint was received by the OASCR, the case or docket number assigned to the complaint, the Privacy Act and FOIA statement, and acceptance with an explanation of the process.
- The OASCR forwards the program Discrimination complaint to Early Reconciliation and Conciliation Division (ERCD) for potential resolution utilizing program alternative dispute resolution (PADR).
- If mediation does not result in a mutual agreement or the complainant chooses not to engage in PADR, the complaint is forwarded to investigations, and the Agency is required to submit an Agency Position Statement (APS) to the Program Investigations Division, Office of Adjudication with 24 calendar days. PADR efforts can be revived at any point during an investigation.
- The OASCR forwards a letter to the NRCS CRD requesting an Agency Position Statement (APS).
RESPONDING TO AN APS REQUEST
- If the OASCR finds that the issues and basis of the complaint are within USDA’s jurisdiction or if PADR does not result in a mutual agreement, the OASCR forwards a letter to the NRCS CRD requesting an APS.
- After the OASCR has forwarded the program discrimination complaint to the NRCS CRD Director, NRCS has 24 calendar days to prepare and submit to the OASCR a written agency response to the complaint. CRD will instruct the STC via an APS request letter to conduct a fact-finding inquiry of the issues stated within the complaint and forward the APS to the CRD office for review.
- Once the STC has provided a response to the CRD, the NRCS CRD Program Complaints Coordinator will review and analyze the report; and prepare an analysis and submit the report to the PCB Branch Chief and CRD Director.
- Upon approval by the CRD Director, the APS is forwarded to the OASCR along with the agency’s analysis and recommendations pertaining to the complaint.
- The Program Complaints Coordinator will upload the APS to PCMS.
RESPONDING TO A FAD
- Upon the OASCR OAC rendering a final decision on a program complaint, notification is forwarded to the NRCS, CRD Director.
- Upon the CRD’s notice, the NRCS CRD Program Complaints Coordinator prepares a letter for the STC and a courtesy copy for the RC to inform them of the OASCR OAC’s decision.
RESPONDING TO PROGRAMMATIC ISSUES/COMPLAINTS
- If the OASCR finds that the issues and basis of the complaint are not within USDA’s jurisdiction, the OASCR forwards a letter to the NRCS CRD stating that the issues are programmatic and that NRCS should handle the matter informally.
- The NRCS CRD Program Complaints Coordinator prepares a letter to the STC informing them of the issues and states that they should informally address the issue(s) within the State. The STC will have a deadline to make contact with the aggrieved and include a courtesy copy of any documentation or course of action that was performed to resolve the issue(s).
- The NRCS CRD provides a follow-up letter to the OASCR regarding NRCS’ approach and authority to remedy the aggrieved concerns/issues.
To file a complaint of discrimination, complete, sign and mail a program discrimination complaint form, (available at any USDA office location or online at www.ascr.usda.gov), to:
United States Department of Agriculture
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20250-9410
or call toll free at (866) 632-9992 (voice) to obtain additional information, the appropriate office or to request documents. Individual who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay service at (800) 877-8339 or (800) 845-6136 (in Spanish). USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.
Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD).