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EEO Complaint Process


The Smithsonian Institution is committed to ensuring that employees, applicants for employment, and affiliated staff (e.g. interns, research associates, fellows and volunteers) are treated equitably in an environment that is free from discrimination and harassment based on race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, gender stereotyping, pregnancy and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability (mental and physical), genetic information, parental status, marital status and/or participation in protected EEO activity.

Any employee, former employee, applicant for employment, or affiliated staff (e.g. intern, research associate, fellow or volunteer) who believes that he or she has been discriminated against based on the basis listed above may seek assistance in addressing their concerns by contacting an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Counselor located in the Office of Equal Employment and Minority Affairs (OEEMA) at 202-633-6430.

Individuals who wish to file a discrimination complaint must contact an EEO Counselor within 45 calendar days of the date of the alleged discriminatory action or, if it involves a personnel action, within 45 calendar days of the effective date of the personnel action. If contact is not made within the 45-day period, the right to pursue an EEO complaint may be lost.

For a flow chart of the Smithsonian's complaint process please click the following link:Flowchart of the EEO Complaint Process.

INFORMAL COMPLAINT (COUNSELING) STAGE:

The EEO Counselor will advise the complainant that he or she may either pursue resolution through EEO counseling or through OEEMA's Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program. The EEO Counselor will inform the complainant of his or her rights and responsibilities, and explain the benefits of ADR.

If the complainant elects traditional counseling, the informal stage will be completed within 30 calendar days, which may be extended for an additional period up to 60 calendar days. The EEO Counselor will conduct limited fact-finding and attempt to resolve the dispute at the lowest level. If resolution is not reached, the EEO Counselor will issue the complainant a Notice of Right to File a Formal Discrimination Complaint.

If the complainant elects ADR, the informal stage is extended to 90 calendar days. If resolution is not reached within that period or ADR continues beyond that period, the EEO Counselor will issue a Notice of Right to File a Formal Discrimination Complaint.

The complainant must participate in the informal stage of the complaint process before filing a formal complaint.

ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION:

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a process in which a third party neutral may serve as a mediator, fact finder or otherwise assist individuals in reaching a mutually agreed upon resolution through the use of various techniques that are designed to resolve disputes. There are several advantages to using ADR. It affords more control to participants in the decision making process making it less formal and more flexible. There is no winner or loser - ADR is a "win-win" approach to conflict that focuses on balancing the interest and needs of each party by affording direct communication in a neutral environment. ADR has a high success rate in achieving a resolution acceptable and agreeable to all parties.

OEEMA offers ADR as an alternative to traditional EEO counseling or to assist in the resolution of a formal EEO complaint prior to a hearing. If ADR is elected, the counseling phase of the complaint process will be extended to a period not to exceed 90 calendar days. OEEMA reserves the right to decline a request for ADR involving issues that may not be suitable for this process.

FORMAL COMPLAINT STAGE:

If a resolution is not achieved during the informal stage, the complainant may file a written formal complaint with OEEMA within 15 calendar days of receiving the "Notice of Right to File a Formal Complaint." If the formal complaint is accepted, a thorough investigation of the accepted claims will be completed within 180 calendar days from the date of filing the formal complaint.

The investigator compiles a Report of Investigation (ROI) containing relevant testimony and other documentary evidence sufficient to allow a fact finder to draw conclusions about whether discrimination occurred. The Investigator makes no findings or recommendations, but has the discretion to determine relevant witnesses and documentation to include in the Report.

After the investigation, within 30 calendar days of the complainant's receipt of the ROI, most complainants may request a final agency decision prepared by OEEMA or a hearing before an Administrative Judge at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If the complainant does not elect to request an EEOC hearing within 30 calendar days, OEEMA will issue a final agency decision within the following 60 calendar days.

HEARING AND APPEAL STAGES:

If the complainant is not pleased with the outcome of either the EEOC hearing decision or the final agency decision, appeal rights are available and will be explained in detail by OEEMA staff at the appropriate time in your case.

For additional information about the federal sector complaint, hearing and appeal processes, please contact OEEMA directly at (202) 633-6430, or visit the following resources: