DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES
Public Health Service
Food and Drug Administration
Date: January 4, 2016
From: Acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs
Subject: Resolution and Processing of Complaints of Discrimination Policy Statement
To: All FDA Employees
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is committed to ensuring equal employment opportunity (EEO) to maintain a strong, effective, high performing public service organization. I pledge my unequivocal commitment to continue to carry out the FDA's long tradition of vigorously enforcing all applicable Federal EEO laws, regulations, Executive Orders, and management directives. Such efforts will ensure the integrity of our mission at the FDA by affording our employees the opportunity for success in the workplace and every protection under the law. These important laws include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1975; the Equal Pay Act of 1963; the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act of2008, and the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) of 1989 and Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) of 2012 (see stand-alone policy statement).
The FDA will not tolerate discrimination or harassment on the bases of race, color, religion, national origin, sex (An employer who discriminates against an employee or applicant on the basis of the person's gender identity is violating the prohibition on sex discrimination contained in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to an opinion issued on April 20 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC]), age, disability, genetic information, sexual orientation (while not covered under Title VII, sexual orientation is a prohibited basis of discrimination under Executive Order 13087 and HHS/FDA policies), or retaliation for opposing discriminatory practices and/or participating in the discrimination complaint process. This also applies to all personnel practices and terms and conditions of employment, including recruitment, hiring, promotions, transfers, reassignments, training, career development, benefits, and separation. FDA is further committed to providing reasonable accommodation(s) to all qualified individuals with disabilities, and for religious practices, as provided by the applicable laws and procedures.
The EEO Complaint Process
To enforce this policy, I have empowered FDA's Office of Equal Employment Opportunity (OEEO) to administer an impartial and effective complaint management process and to address and resolve complaints of discrimination at the earliest possible stage. Employees may and should report allegations of discrimination to OEEO (at 301.796.9400); their immediate supervisor; another management official; their collective bargaining unit; or the Employee and Labor Relations unit in the FDA Office of Human Resources, as appropriate.
Please note that under 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 1614, employees who wish to go through the EEO Complaint process must report such allegations to OEEO within 45 calendar days of the date of the alleged incident in order for the complaint to be regarded as timely under the governing statutes.
As the Commissioner of Food and Drugs, I have further made it my priority to ensure that all of FDA's employees, applicants, contract employees, clients, customers, and anyone doing business with FDA are not subject to harassment. Harassment is a form of prohibited discrimination just as the other bases covered by Title VII, and will not be tolerated.
The following defines what constitutes harassment:
Harassment is any unwelcome, hostile, or offensive conduct instigated on the bases of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, or disability that interferes with an individual's performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: ( 1) submission to or rejection of such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of one's employment, or (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by a person is used as a basis for career or employment decisions affecting that person, or (3) such conduct interferes with an individual's performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.
I assure all FDA employees that allegations of discrimination and harassment, including those of a sexual and non-sexual nature, will be taken seriously by agency managers and will be addressed immediately. Appropriate corrective action--up to and including termination--will be taken if allegations are substantiated.
Both supervisors and employees bear responsibility to maintain a work environment free from discrimination and harassment. Employees must not engage in harassing conduct and should report such conduct to their supervisor, another management official, their collective bargaining unit, Employee and Labor Relations office, and/or OEEO, as appropriate. The official who receives such harassment claims will ensure the confidentiality of the individual making the claims to the greatest extent possible.
If an employee brings an issue of harassment to a supervisor's attention, the supervisor must promptly investigate the matter in a thorough and impartial manner, share the outcome of such inquiries with the affected parties, and take appropriate and decisive corrective action. Supervisors are encouraged to seek guidance from OEEO when addressing issues of discrimination or harassment.
Both employees and supervisors should seek to resolve such issues at the earliest possible stage, and I strongly encourage their participation in the alternative dispute resolution services provided by OEEO's Conflict Prevention and Resolution Program. Moreover, it is every supervisor's responsibility to inform his/her staff of this policy and to ensure that discrimination and workplace harassment of any type is not tolerated.
Protection from Retaliation
Retaliation against employees for opposition to discrimination or participation in the discrimination complaint process is unlawful and will not be tolerated. This includes complainants, witnesses, and others who provide information concerning such claims. We will work aggressively, and in conce11with the WPA and WPEA, to protect employees from reprisal for participation in such protected activity, including the reporting of waste, fraud, and abuse in government practices.
OEEO provides Mandatory EEO Compliance Training for Managers and Supervisors. This training educates supervisory employees on their legal responsibilities in the area of EEO and promotes early conflict resolution. This training is mandatory for all management and supervisory personnel.
A Discrimination Free FDA
I am committed to creating an environment within FDA that is free of barriers to full participation and empowers every individual to contribute to the mission of the agency. To this end, each of us bears the responsibility to ensure that discrimination and retaliation in the workplace are not tolerated.
Supervisors and managers serve as agents of FDA and bear a special responsibility to ensure that the work environment is free from discrimination, harassment and retaliation, while also retaining and developing an inclusive workforce that reflects the multi-cultural society we serve. FDA remains strongly dedicated to these principles as it pursues its critical mission of protecting and promoting America's health.
This memorandum supersedes the memorandum from the Commissioner of Food and Drugs dated May 5, 2014 to all FDA employees.
Stephen Ostroff, M.D.