Equal Opportunity Guidance

Equal Employment Opportunity is a set of laws, regulations, and policies that guarantee every individual’s right to equal employment opportunity in the workplace, irrespective of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, or disability.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces all of these laws. EEOC also provides oversight and coordination of all federal equal employment opportunity regulations, practices, and policies.

Other federal laws, not enforced by EEOC, also prohibit discrimination and reprisal against federal employees and applicants. The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA) contains a number of prohibitions, known as prohibited personnel practicesExternal, which are designed to promote overall fairness in federal personnel actions. 5 U.S.C. 2302. The CSRA prohibits any employee who has authority to take certain personnel actions from discriminating for or against employees or applicants for employment on the bases of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age or disability. It also provides that certain personnel actions cannot be based on attributes or conduct that do not adversely affect employee performance, such as marital status and political affiliation.

The Office of Personnel Management External has interpreted the prohibition of discrimination based on conduct to include discrimination based on sexual orientation. The CSRA also prohibits reprisal against federal employees or applicants for whistle-blowing, or for exercising an appeal, complaint, or grievance right. The CSRA is enforced by both the Office of Special CounselExternal and the Merit Systems Protection Board External.

Additional information about the enforcement of the CSRA may be found on the OPM web site at Civil Service Reform Act of 1978External from OSC at (202) 653-7188 or at the Office of Special CounselExternal; and from MSPB at (202) 653-6772 or at U.S. Merit Systems Protection BoardExternal.

Page last reviewed: September 1, 2015