Notification and Federal Employee Anti-Discrimination and Retaliation (No FEAR) Act of 2002 — A Department of Navy Notice
On May 15, 2002, Congress enacted the “Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002,” which is now known as the No FEAR Act. One purpose of the Act is to “require that federal agencies be accountable for violations of antidiscrimination and whistleblower protection laws.” Pub. L. 107-174, Summary. In support of this purpose, Congress found that “agencies cannot be run effectively if those agencies practice or tolerate discrimination.” Pub. L. 107-74, Title I, General Provisions, Section 101(1).
The Act also requires that the Department of Navy (DoN) inform current employees, former employees and applicants for employment, of the rights and protections available under federal antidiscrimination, whistleblower protection and retaliation laws.
A federal agency cannot discriminate against an employee or applicant with respect to the terms, conditions or privileges of employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status or political affiliation. Discrimination on these bases is prohibited by one or more of the following statutes: 5 U.S.C. 2302(b) (1), 29 U.S.C. 206(d), 29 U.S.C. 631, 29 U.S.C. 633a, 29 U.S.C. 791 and 42 U.S.C. 2000e-16.
If an individual believes that he/she has been the victim of unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin or disability, they must contact an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) counselor within 45 calendar days of the alleged discriminatory action, or, in the case of a personnel action, within 45 calendar days of the effective date of the action, before a formal complaint of discrimination can be filed with the agency. See, e.g., 29 CFR 1614.
If an individual believes that he/she has been a victim of unlawful discrimination on the basis of age, you must either contact an EEO counselor as noted above or give notice of intent to sue to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory action.
If an individual is alleging discrimination based on marital status or political affiliation, he/she may file a written complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) (see contact information below). In the alternative (or in some cases, in addition), they may pursue a discrimination complaint by filing a grievance through the agency's administrative or negotiated grievance procedures, if such procedures apply and are available.
Whistleblower Protection Laws
A federal employee with authority to take, direct others to take, recommend or approve any personnel action must not use that authority to take or fail to take, or threaten to take or fail to take, a personnel action against an employee or applicant because of disclosure of information by that individual that is reasonably believed to evidence violations of law, rule or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; an abuse of authority; or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, unless disclosure of such information is specifically prohibited by law and such information is specifically required by executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or the conduct of foreign affairs.
Retaliation against an employee or applicant for making a protected disclosure is prohibited by 5 U.S.C. 2302(b) (8). Anyone who believes that he/she has been the victim of whistleblower retaliation, may file a written complaint (Form OSC-11) with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel at 1730 M Street N.W., Suite 218, Washington, DC 20036-4505 or online through the Office of Special Counsel website.
Retaliation for Engaging in Protected Activity
A federal agency cannot retaliate against an employee or applicant because that individual exercises his/her rights under any of the federal antidiscrimination or whistleblower protections laws listed above. Individuals who believe they are a victim of retaliation for engaging in protected activity must follow, as appropriate, the procedures described in the Antidiscrimination Laws and Whistleblower Protection Laws sections or, if applicable, the administrative or negotiated grievance procedures in order to pursue any legal remedy.
Under the existing laws, each agency retains the right, where appropriate, to discipline a federal employee who has engaged in discriminatory or retaliatory conduct, up to and including removal. If OSC has initiated an investigation under 5 U.S.C. 1214, however, according to 5 U.S.C. 1214(f), agencies must seek approval from the Special Counsel to discipline employees for, among other activities, engaging in prohibited retaliation. Nothing in the No FEAR Act alters existing laws or permits an agency to take unfounded disciplinary action against a federal employee or to violate the procedural rights of a federal employee who has been accused of discrimination.
For further information regarding the No FEAR Act regulations, refer to 5 CFR 724, or contact the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Equal Employment Opportunity Program Office, 875 North Randolph Street, Room 534, Arlington, VA 22203-1995, or visit ONR's website. Additional information regarding federal antidiscrimination, whistleblower protection and retaliation laws can be found at the EEOC website and the Office of Special Counsel website.