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Equal Opportunity For Public Health Service (PHS) Commissioned Officers

REGULATION: INSTRUCTION 1, Subchapter 46.1, "Equal Opportunity" of the Commissioned Corps Personnel Manual.

POLICY: INSTRUCTION 6, Subchapter 26.1, "Equal Opportunity: Discrimination Complaints Processing,” of the Commissioned Corps Personnel Manual.

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The Secretary, Health and Human Services, mandated that all members of, and qualified applicants to, the Public Health Service (PHS) Commissioned Corps are afforded equal opportunity when considered for appointment, career development, promotion, assignments, relocation, assimilation, retention, and separation pursuant to INSTRUCTION 6, Subchapter 26.1, "Equal Opportunity: Discrimination Complaints Processing,” of the Commissioned Corps Personnel Manual.

Every officer or applicant shall be free from any and all restraint, interference, coercion, or reprisal on the part of fellow officers or employees, supervisors, or other management officials in lodging any allegation relating to discrimination, filing or pursuing any complaint or appeal, appearing as a witness or serving as a representative or as an advisor to a complainant, or other action related thereto.

All personnel are accountable for their actions and are responsible for preventing and reporting incidents of discrimination and/or reprisal. It is PHS Commissioned Corps policy to provide equal opportunity to all qualified professionals; to assure that there is no discrimination in the workplace based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or to a limited extent, age or disability; and, to resolve or adjudicate promptly and fairly all allegations relating to discrimination.

Violations of this policy shall be brought to the attention of the appropriate manager, administrator, or EEO Officer. The equal opportunity complaint procedure is designed to correct inequities in a manner consistent with Commissioned Corps policies and procedures. To this end, officers filing complaints must identify the desired outcome. However, compensatory damages and attorney fees are not available to commissioned officers.

An Equal Opportunity (EO) action is a written allegation of discrimination or reprisal based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or to a limited extent, age or disability, filed for processing, in accordance with INSTRUCTION 6.

A flow chart for the Commissioned Corps EEO process is provided as an attached EXHIBIT to INSTRUCTION 6.
INSTRUCTION 6 provides guidance to Commissioned Officers seeking to initiate an equal opportunity action.

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What does equal opportunity mean? That an individual will receive consideration and fair treatment based on merit and capability without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or to a limited extent, age or disability, for all members of, and applicants to, the PHS Commissioned Corps, in factors such as appointment, training, career development, and any other personnel practices that might affect the members opportunities and work environment.

I work for the U.S. Coast Guard, where do I file an EO complaint? PHS commissioned officers detailed to the Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard, remain subject to the law of the Armed Forces to which detailed. EO complaints filed by these officers will be processed in accordance with the procedures of the Service to which detailed.

I thought we were covered under anti-discrimination laws with regard to EEO complaints? On November 13, 1998, the President signed the Health Professions Education Partnerships Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-392). This law amended the PHS Act by including the following provision:

Active service of commissioned officers of the Service shall be deemed to be active military service in the Armed Forces of the United States for purposes of all laws relating to discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, ethnicity, age, religion, and disability (42 U.S.C. 213(f)).

The effect of this law is to overturn the decisions handed down in Federal court cases which held that commissioned officers of the PHS were Federal employees covered by anti-discrimination legislation.

What is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR)? This describes a number of techniques which provide alternatives to the traditional mechanisms–negotiations and litigation–for resolving an EO conflict. These techniques are generally voluntary, consensual and convened by a neutral party.

What is an EEO Counselor? A person who has been designated by the Health and Human Services (HHS) Operating Division or Program to assist in the informal resolution of issues relating to equal opportunity of the PHS Commissioned Corps, in factors such as appointment, training, career development, and any other personnel practices that might affect the members opportunities and work environment.

I keep hearing the word reprisal. What does that mean? Reprisal is an unlawful act to restrain, interfere, coerce, or discriminate against an individual who is involved or participating in the discrimination complaints process.

Do I have the right to have a representative or attorney? You may have a representative of your choosing at all stages of the pre-complaint and complaint processes. You may obtain at your own expense, legal counsel.

What is an informal resolution process? At an officer’s request every effort will be made to resolve all allegations relating to discrimination through an informal process. Officers should seek informal resolution as soon as possible. Officers have 60 days after an offending incident or occurrence in which to reach an informal resolution, or to file a formal complaint. This time period may be extended by the EEO Officer if it appears that the case is nearing resolution. Although officers and applicants are encouraged to seek informal resolution, they are not required to do so before filing a formal complaint. The process is detailed in the INSTRUCTION.

What does the EEO counselor do? The EEO counselor explains the complaint procedure to the complainant, informs him/her of the ADR option, and facilitates resolution. The process is detailed in the INSTRUCTION.
Can the Commissioned Corps Liaison help me? They can provide consultation on commissioned corps policies and procedures, and assist with informal resolutions.

What is the formal complaint process? This is a written discrimination complaint submitted to the EEO. An investigation will be conducted and the EEO Officer will prepare a legal analysis of the facts for a final decision by the Surgeon General. The process for preparing and presenting a formal complaint is detailed in the INSTRUCTION.

Who conducts the EO investigations? These are conducted by outside investigators contracted to perform such investigations.

After I filed an EEO complaint, I have incurred reprisal from my Program. What rights do I have? A complainant who alleges reprisal in connection with the presentation of a pending complaint under this INSTRUCTION, may add reprisal as an additional basis with the original complaint. This must be in writing, contain all pertinent facts, and be submitted to the EEO Officer within 15 days of the date of the alleged occurrence. Guidance on this procedure is detailed in the INSTRUCTION.

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Agency Contact Telephone
Office of the Secretary Ms. Barbara Aulenbach 202-619-1564
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Ms. Sue J. Porter-Anderson 404-639-0336
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Mrs. Arlene Austin 410-786-5110
Food and Drug Administration Georgia Coffey 301-827-4840
Health Resources and Services Administration Mr. J. Calvin Adams 301-443-5636
Indian Health Service Ms. Cecelia A. Heftel 301-443-1108
National Institutes of Health Ms. Hilda Dixon 301-402-4157
National Park Service Ms. Sonya Coakley 202-565-1117
Program Support Center Mr. Donald L. Inniss 301-443-1144
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Mr. Richard Kopanda 301-443-4447

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Office of the Secretary: http://www.hhs.gov/asmb/budget/eeo.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/maso/eeofs.htm

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: http://www.cms.hhs.gov/EEOInfo/

Food and Drug Administration: http://www.fda.gov

Health Resources and Services Administration: http://www.hrsa.gov

Indian Health Service: http://www.eeo.ihs.gov

National Institutes of Health: http://www1.od.nih.gov/OEO/CMAB/Complaints_Briefing.html

Program Support Center: http://oeeo.psc.gov

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: http://www.samhsa.gov

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For Questions or Comments, please send e-mail to :
Administrative and Disciplinary Actions Officer or Call: 240-453-6002

Commissioned Corps Management Information System
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240-453-6000 | Contact Us

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