November is Manatee Awareness Month; but no matter what time of year it is, manatees deserve to be celebrated. These amazing creatures fulfill a unique niche by serving as indicator species for ecosystems across the United States. Because of their reliance on the health of their habitat, manatees often act as a signal of their environment’s well-being. NOAA photo by Michael Buchanan.
Spring is coming early in 3/4 of national parks, according to a new study. Awesome? Not so much. As flowers bloom earlier every year, it’s disrupting the link between the wildflowers and the arrival of birds, bees, and butterflies that feed on and pollinate the flowers. In Shenandoah, an earlier spring is giving invasive plants a head start, and they’re displacing native wildflowers, leading to costly management issues.
Before the 1960s almost everything about living openly as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) person was illegal. New York City laws against homosexual activities were particularly harsh. The Stonewall Uprising on June 28, 1969 is a milestone in the quest for LGBT civil rights and provided momentum for a movement.
Vine Creek Ranch at Death Valley National Park. Steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.
You And the Federal Sector Employment Discrimination Complaints Process
This leaflet is intended to provide information about the Federal Sector Employment Discrimination Complaints Process within the Department of the Interior. The Department is committed to ensuring that EEO complaints filed by employees and applicants for employment are given fair and timely consideration and to eliminating discrimination.
Effective November 9, 1999, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published a revised set of regulations governing the processing of Federal Sector Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints. If, as an employee, former employee, or an applicant for employment with the Department, you believe that you may have been discriminated against on one or more of the following bases: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, physical or mental disability and/or reprisal (for prior EEO activity participation), you must contact and discuss the matter with an EEO Counselor. Agencies are required to designate EEO Counselors and to make them available to employees and applicants. The goal of the EEO Counselor is to facilitate an informal resolution of the matter between the parties when possible.
Procedures During Informal Processing
You must contact an EEO Counselor within 45 calendar days of the date of the incident that gave rise to your complaint or, if it is a personnel action, within 45 calendar days of its effective date.
The Counselor has 30 calendar days from the time you report your issue to attempt an informal resolution of the matter. The 30-day period for EEO counseling may extend up to an additional 60 days if you agree in writing to such an extension.
Instead of EEO Counseling, you may elect Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). If you elect to participate in the ADR Program, the pre-complaint processing period will be 90 days.
If, at the end of this time (including any extension), the matter is not resolved, you will be advised, in writing, of your right to file a formal complaint as specified in the "The Formal Complaint" section below.
You have a right to be represented at any stage of the process in presenting your complaint, including the counseling stage. As a general rule, you may select any person to represent you, including an attorney. You and your representative, if an employee of the Department, are entitled to a reasonable amount of official time in preparing and presenting your complaint.
How Can The EEO Counselor Help You?
The Counselor will:
Explain the process to you and advise you in writing of your rights and responsibilities.
Listen and help you specifically identify your claims of employment discrimination.
Inform you about the Alternative Dispute Resolution Program.
Conduct a limited inquiry into your claims.
Discuss your concerns with an appropriate official who has authority to resolve your claims.
Attempt to resolve your concerns informally.
EEO Counselors report regularly to the EEO Officer about their activities. They will also discuss your claims with appropriate officials, but they will use your name only with your permission. You have a right to remain anonymous during the counseling period.
Alternative Dispute Resolution Process
Each Bureau must have an Alternative Dispute Resolution Program (ADR). ADR is a viable alternative to the formal discrimination complaint process which can be complex, lengthy, time consuming, and expensive. The EEO Counselor will offer you ADR at the beginning of the EEO counseling period if your Bureau decides to offer ADR regarding your type of claim. You may elect to proceed in the ADR program or to remain in the EEO Counseling Program. If you elect to enter the ADR Program, the process will extend to 90 days and the EEO counseling process will cease. A trained mediator from either inside or outside the Department may be assigned to mediate your claim. The mediator is a neutral, objective, and impartial problem solver who will be able to assist you and management in joint problem solving. If your claim is resolved during the ADR process, the resolution will be put in writing to be signed by you and the appropriate management official. If your claim is not resolved during counseling or ADR, the EEO Counselor will issue you the Notice of Right to File a Discrimination Complaint. Discussions held during the ADR process will not be recorded in the complaint file.
The Formal Complaint
If the attempts to informally resolve your complaint have been unsuccessful, you will be notified by the Counselor, in writing, of your right to file a formal complaint. If you decide to file a formal complaint, you or your representative have 15 calendar days from the date of receipt of this notice to submit your formal complaint in writing. It is important to know that if you do not file your formal complaint within the 15-day time limit, the agency may dismiss your complaint.
It is not the duty of the EEO Counselor to file your complaint for you. However, he or she can answer your questions concerning the filing of your complaint. If you wish, your representative may file your complaint for you. Your written complaint must be specific and must be limited to the matters discussed with the EEO Counselor. The formal complaint should be filed by you or your representative, using Department of the Interior Form DI-1892, with the Bureau or Office EEO Officer where the alleged discriminatory incident occurred, with the Secretary of the Interior, the Assistant Secretary, Policy, Management and Budget, or with the Director, Office for Equal Opportunity, 1849 C Street, N.W., MS-1442 MIB, Washington, D.C. 20240. The DI-1892 form may be obtained from the EEO Counselor or the Bureau EO Office.
If your complaint is filed with the Secretary of the Interior or with the Assistant Secretary, PMB, he or she will forward your complaint to the Director, OEO, who in turn and where appropriate, will forward your complaint to the EEO Officer for the Bureau or Office in which the alleged discriminatory action occurred. To expedite the process, we encourage you to file your complaint directly with the Bureau where the complaint arose.
The Bureau or Office EEO Officer will then identify your claims and notify you of the claims to be investigated. If the EEO Officer accepts a claim for processing but dismisses one or more of the claims, only the accepted claims will be investigated. The EEO Officer will document the file with the reasons why some claims have not been accepted. There is no immediate right to appeal the non-accepted claims at this stage. However, if the EEO Officer determines not to accept any of the claims in your complaint, the EEO Officer will refer the complaint to the Director, OEO, for a final agency decision on the dismissal of the complaint. If the Director, OEO, finds that the dismissal of the complaint is not supported, he or she may remand the complaint to the Bureau for further processing. If your complaint is dismissed, you will be given appeal rights to the EEOC.
Once a Bureau or Office accepts your formal complaint, it will be investigated by an impartial investigator as defined by EEOC regulations at 29 CFR 1614.108 and implementing guidance in EEOC Management Directive (MD) 110, Chapter 6.
A thorough investigation will be conducted. The investigation will encompass all the information relevant to the accepted claims and may, when appropriate, include comparative data on other individuals who were similarly situated. The investigations may be conducted by verbatim statements, interrogatories, position papers, or by other fact finding methods. During the investigation, you will have an opportunity to present all the facts which you believe show unlawful discrimination.
The Bureau has 180 calendar days from the date you filed your complaint to notify you that the investigation has been completed. After the investigation is completed, a Report of Investigation (ROI) and a summary of the ROI will be sent to you. By written agreement between you and the Bureau, the time period may be extended an additional 90 days. Your complaint may also be amended with like or related claims raised before the completion of the investigation.
If your complaint is amended, the time period will be extended by 180 days from the date of the amendment. Once the ROI is issued to you, you will have 30 days from the date of your receipt of the ROI to exercise your right either (1) to request a hearing before an EEOC Administrative Judge, or (2) to request a decision, without a hearing, by the Director, OEO. This notice is called the notice of your right to an "election."
If you have a claim that is also appealable to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), you are not entitled to a hearing by the EEOC. A final agency decision will be issued by the Director, OEO, and you will be given appeal rights to the MSPB.
Your request for a hearing must be sent directly to the appropriate EEOC Field Office with a copy to the Bureau. Once you have elected a hearing, the Administrative Judge will have full and complete authority over your complaint. You will be allowed to present witnesses and evidence on your behalf. The hearing is recorded and transcribed verbatim. The Administrative Judge will have 180 days from the date the EEOC received your request for a hearing to conduct the hearing, issue findings and conclusions and a decision on your complaint. This time frame may be extended by the Administrative Judge. You should be advised, however, that there may be circumstances where the Administrative Judge may decide that a hearing is not necessary.
The Administrative Judge will issue a decision on your complaint which will become the final action of the Department, if the Department does not appeal the Administrative Judge's decision within 40 days of the date the decision was received.
If You Do Not Ask for A Hearing
If you do not ask for either a hearing or a decision without a hearing within 30 calendar days after you receive the notice of election described above, the Director, OEO, will issue a final decision based upon the evidence in the ROI. You will be given appeal rights if you are dissatisfied with the final decision.
The Final Decision
The Director, OEO, as the designee of the Secretary, will issue you a final decision on your complaint within 60 calendar days from (a) the date of your request for an immediate decision, or (b) the end of the 30-day period after your receive the notice of election.
The final agency decision will include an analysis on the merits of each claim accepted in your complaint, or a decision to dismiss some or all of your claims. If a finding of discrimination is made, the final decision will also identify the corrective action to which you are entitled.
If a hearing has been conducted, the Administrative Judge will send you a copy of the decision with a copy to the Department. The Director, OEO, will have 40 days to issue a final order after receipt of the Administrative Judge's decision. If the Department rejects the Administrative Judge's decision, it must simultaneously appeal to the EEOC. A copy of the appeal will be sent to you.
If you are dissatisfied with the agency's final decision, you may, within 30 calendar days of the date on which you received the decision or notice of dismissal, appeal the decision to the Director, Office of Federal Operations, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, P.O. Box 19848, Washington, D.C. 20036. You may also deliver the appeal in person to the EEOC, Office of Federal Operations at 1801 L Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. or by fax at 202-663-7022. You must also send a copy of the appeal to the Director, OEO, Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, N.W., MS-4309, Washington, D.C. 20240.