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EEO Complaint Process

The information on this page is for employees of FEMA and applicants for employment at FEMA. For all others with questions about filing an employment discrimination complaint, please visit The Office of Equal Rights only services employees and applicants of FEMA.

Anti-Discrimination Statement

FEMA cannot and will not tolerate discrimination based on the protected bases of race; color; religion; sex, including pregnancy, sex stereotyping, gender identity or gender expression; national origin; sexual orientation; physical or mental disability; age; protected genetic information; status as a parent marital status; political affiliation; or retaliation based on previous Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) activity. FEMA also will not tolerate any type of harassment—either sexual or nonsexual—of any employee or applicant for employment. 

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Learn more about the "No FEAR Act" data Notification and Federal Employee Anti-Discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002.

How to File an EEO Complaint

If you are a federal employee or job applicant, the law protects you from discrimination because of your:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy)
  • National origin
  • Age (40 or older)
  • Disability
  • Genetic information
  • Reprisal/retaliation

The law also protects you from retaliation if you oppose employment discrimination, file a complaint of discrimination, or participate in the EEO complaint process (even if the complaint is not yours.)

There are also federal laws and regulations and Executive Orders (which are not enforced by EEOC) that prohibit discrimination on bases such as sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, or political affiliation.

If you are a FEMA employee or have applied to a job at FEMA and you believe that FEMA has discriminated against you, you have a right to file a complaint.

EEO Counselor

To file an EEO complaint at FEMA the first step is to contact an EEO Counselor. 

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Generally, you must contact the EEO Counselor within 45 days from the day the discrimination occurred.

FEMA Office of Equal Rights
Report discrimination by phone or email.

In most cases the EEO Counselor will give you the choice of participating either in EEO counseling or in an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program, such as a mediation program.

  • Once you have contacted the Office of Equal Rights, you will be assigned an EEO Counselor.
  • During counseling, the EEO Counselor will advise individuals in writing of their rights and responsibilities, explain the complaint process, and conduct a limited inquiry into the allegations presented. This inquiry may involve interviews with employees, management officials or persons the counselor determines may have some firsthand knowledge of the allegations. 
  • Counseling is normally completed within 30 calendar days.
  • The time period for counseling may be extended for an additional 60 calendar days upon the written request of the employee and the agreement of the servicing EEO office.    

If you do not settle the dispute during counseling or through ADR, you can file a formal discrimination complaint against the agency with the agency's EEO Office. You must file within 15 calendar days from the day you receive notice from the Office of Equal Rights at FEMA Headquarters.

Formal Complaints of Discrimination should be addressed to:

Office of Equal Rights
EEO Division
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street S.W.
4th Floor – 4SW-0915
Washington, D.C. 20472-3535

Filing A Formal Complaint

Once you have filed a formal complaint, FEMA will review the complaint and decide whether or not the case should be dismissed for a procedural reason (for example, your claim was filed too late).

If FEMA doesn't dismiss the complaint, it will investigate.

The agency has 180 days from the day you filed your complaint to finish the investigation.

When the investigation is finished, the agency will issue a notice giving you two choices: either request a hearing before an EEOC Administrative Judge or ask the agency to issue a decision as to whether the discrimination occurred.

Agency Issues A Decision (Final Action)

If you ask the agency to issue a decision and no discrimination is found, or if you disagree with some part of the decision, you can appeal the decision to EEOC or challenge it in federal district court.

Requesting A Hearing

If you want to ask for a hearing, you must make your request in writing or via the EEOC Public Portal, where you can also upload hearing requests, and manage your personal and representative information within 30 days from the day you receive the notice from the agency about your hearing rights. If you request a hearing, an EEOC Administrative Judge will conduct the hearing, make a decision, and order relief if discrimination is found.

Once the agency receives the Administrative Judge's decision, the agency will issue what is called a final order which will tell you whether the agency agrees with the Administrative Judge and if it will grant any relief the judge ordered. The agency will have 40 days to issue the final order. It will also contain information about your right to appeal to EEOC, your right to file a civil action in federal district court, and the deadline for filing both an appeal and a civil action.

Filing an Appeal of The Agency's Final Order

You have the right to appeal an agency's final order (including a final order dismissing your complaint) to EEOC Office of Federal Operations. You must file your appeal no later than 30 days after you receive the final order. You may file your appeal using the EEOC Public Portal, where you can also upload selected documents, and manage your personal and representative information.

EEOC appellate attorneys will review the entire file, including the agency's investigation, the decision of the Administrative Judge, the transcript of what was said at the hearing (if there was a hearing), and any appeal statements.

If the agency disagrees with any part of the Administrative Judge's decision, it must appeal to EEOC.

Request for Reconsideration of The Appeal Decision

If you do not agree with the EEOC's decision on your appeal, you can ask for a reconsideration of that decision. A request for reconsideration is only granted if you can show that the decision is based on a mistake about the facts of the case or the law applied to the facts.

You must ask for reconsideration no later than 30 days after you receive our decision on your appeal.

Once EEOC has issued a decision on the appeal, the agency also has the right to ask EEOC to reconsider that decision.

Once we have made a decision on your request for reconsideration, the decision is final.

Filing A Lawsuit

You must go through the administrative complaint process before you can file a lawsuit. There are several different points during the process; however, when you will have the opportunity to quit the process and file a lawsuit in court, including:

  • After 180 days have passed from the day you filed your complaint, if the agency has not issued a decision and no appeal has been filed.
  • Within 90 days from the day you receive the agency's decision on your complaint, so long as no appeal has been filed.
  • After the 180 days from the day you filed your appeal if the EEOC has not issued a decision, or
  • Within 90 days from the day you receive the EEOC's decision on your appeal.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

ADR provides an alternative to traditional administrative avenues to resolve the allegation of discrimination at issue. ADR is any dispute resolution process (other than litigation) where a neutral third party assists the conflicted parties to resolve a dispute. ADR utilizes many processes, but all are confidential and voluntary for FEMA employees and applicants. FEMA employs mediation as its primary ADR process.

Contact Us

Office of Equal Rights
EEO Unit
Federal Emergency Management Agency