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Complaint Bases

The Department of the Interior prohibits discrimination on the bases of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age (40 and older), mental or physical disability, reprisal, sexual orientation, status as a parent, and genetic information.



The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC or the Commission) identifies race as a class or kind of individuals having immutable characteristics associated with race, such as skin color, hair texture, or certain facial features, even though not all members of the race share the same characteristics.

Racial discrimination is present when people are treated differently than others who are similarly situated because they are members of a specific race. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibits employment decisions based on stereotypes and assumptions about abilities, traits, or the performance of individuals of certain racial groups. Equal employment opportunity cannot be denied because of marriage to or association with an individual of a different race; membership in an association with individuals of a different race; membership in or association with ethnic based organizations or groups; or attendance or participation in schools or places of worship generally associated with certain minority groups.

Racial and Ethnic categories are defined by the Office of Personnel Management as follows:

1. American Indian/Alaskan Native is defined as a person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America and who maintains cultural identification through community recognition or tribal affiliation.

2. Asian or Pacific Islander is defined as a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, or the Pacific Islands. This area includes, but is not limited to, China, Japan, India, Korea, Guam, the Philippine Islands, Samoa, and Thailand.

3. Black, not of Hispanic Origin is defined as a person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa. This does not include persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish cultures or origins (See Hispanic).

4. Hispanic is defined as a person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin. Does not include persons of Portuguese culture or origin.

5. White, not of Hispanic Origin is defined as a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East. This does not include persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin (Hispanic). Also included are persons not included in other categories above.

6. Minorities are those persons in groups 1 through 4 above.



Discrimination on the basis of the color of someone’s skin pigmentation occurs when individuals are treated differently in an unlawful manner than others who are similarly situated. This is a separately identifiable basis for filing a claim of discrimination from race discrimination, although it often occurs in conjunction with race discrimination.



Religious discrimination occurs when an employment rule or policy requires a person to either violate a fundamental precept of her/his religion or lose an employment opportunity. Religious discrimination can also occur when an individual is treated differently than her/his similarity situated co-workers because of their religious beliefs. The definition of religion is not restricted to the orthodox denominations and includes all aspects of religious observance and practice as well as belief. The protection extends to practitioners of paganism, wicca, and other non-traditional faiths. Further, since the provisions under religion include a lack of belief, self-professed atheists are also covered.



Sex discrimination exists when employment decisions are made or actions are taken that are based upon the sex (gender) of an individual. Discrimination based upon pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions is covered under sex discrimination.

Gender-based harassment is a form of sex discrimination. Examples of sex or gender-based harassment could include assigning "sex-stereotyped" work to an individual, or engaging in taunting, pranks, and other types of hazing.

Sexual harassment is sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when any one of the following three criteria are met:

1. Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment;

2. Submission or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions where the individual has suffered a tangible loss or harm;

3. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.


National Origin

National Origin discrimination includes, but is not limited to, the denial of equal employment opportunity because of an individual’s, or his or her ancestor’s, place of origin; or because an individual has the physical, cultural or linguistic characteristics of a national origin group.



The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967, as amended, protects employees or applicants who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of her/his age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment. Unlike the other anti-discrimination statutes, the claimant is not required to exhaust administrative remedies before an agency, or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC or the Commission). The claimant may pursue matters of age discrimination directly in federal court after providing the Commission at least 30 days notice of intent to file a complaint in U.S. District Court.



Discrimination on the basis of disability is prohibited by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. This type of discrimination occurs when a person is treated differently than a similarly situated co-worker or is not reasonably accommodated because she or he:

1. has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits a major life activity;

2. has a record of such impairment; or

3. is regarded as having such an impairment. Major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, working, performing manual tasks, walking, standing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, and seeing.



The EEOC defines reprisal or retaliation as discrimination that adversely affects a term or condition of employment of any employee or applicant because of her or his involvement in EEO complaint activity. It also prohibits reprisal or retaliation for opposing any employment practice that the individual reasonably and in good faith believes violates Title VII.


Sexual Orientation

On December 7, 1993, in response to Executive Order 11478, as amended by Executive Order 12106, and as further amended by Executive Order 13087 (collectively, the Executive Order), the Department of Interior expanded its Equal Opportunity Policy to include sexual orientation as a basis for filing discrimination complaints as it relates to all matters of employment. Recently, the EEOC also began processing complaints based on sexual orientation. The Department of the Interior does process and investigate claims based upon sexual orientation, if not resolved at the pre-complaint or investigative stage. The informal process for a claim based on sexual orientation is the same as any other basis. The Department of the Interior identifies sexual orientation as "homosexuality (gay or lesbian), bisexuality, heterosexuality, or transsexuality, whether such orientation is real or perceived."


Status as a Parent

On May 2, 2000, President Clinton issued Executive Order 13152, to prohibit discrimination on an individual's status as a parent. "Status as a parent" refers to the status of an individual who, with respect to an individual who is under the age of 18 or is 18 or older but is incapable of self-care because of a physical or mental disability, is:

1. A biological parent;

2. An adoptive parent;

3. A foster parent;

4. A step-parent;

5. A custodian of a legal ward;

6. In loco parentis over such an individual; or

7. Actively seeking legal custody or adoption of such an individual.


Protected Genetic Information

On February 8, 2000, President Clinton issued Executive Order 13145, amending Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. This Executive Order prohibits discrimination in Federal employment covering all qualified persons, prohibiting discrimination against employees based on protected genetic information or information about a request for or the receipt of genetic services.

Last Updated: June 6, 2016
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