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Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws

VA prohibits discrimination and is responsible for ensuring that the workplace is free from retaliation and reprisal and does not discriminate against employees or applicants with respect to the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability. Prohibited workplace harassment has different characteristics and is not just limited to sexual harassment. The courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have defined discriminatory harassment as:


1.  any conduct which is based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or reprisal for prior EEO activity; and


2. any such conduct that is so severe or pervasive, it interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.



Civil Rights Act of 1964

Harassment because of someone’s race, sex, religion, color, or national origin violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


Age Discrimination in Employment Act 

Harassment based on age (over 40) violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).


Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Harassment based on physical or mental disability violates the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.


Executive Order 11478 

Harassment based on sexual orientation is prohibited by Executive Order 11478 and VA policy directives. United States Department of Veterans Affairs Mandatory Training for Trainees Page 73 of 102



Employees paid by VA are protected by all applicable EEO laws. All employees in VA facilities should be able to recognize conduct constituting discrimination or workplace harassment so that they can report it to their supervisor or other local VA officials. A key point:

• Any employee, former employee, or applicant for employment, who believes discrimination occurred on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age (over 40), disability, sexual orientation, or reprisal for prior EEO activities may initiate a discrimination complaint.


Sexual Orientation

Discrimination based on sexual orientation is not covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and cannot be used as a basis for filing a complaint of discrimination before the EEOC. Such complaints may only be brought through an internal agency grievance process.


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