EEO and Reasonable Accommodation

What is the general purpose of having Affirmative Employment goals and initiatives?

An Affirmative employment goal is a goal to recruit, hire and retain the best and the brightest available to us, regardless of race, color, gender, disability, etc. There are many qualified minorities and women, and we want to ensure they have the same access to employment with us as everyone else.

Affirmative employment is a goal, not a quota. We never factor race or gender into hiring decisions. We get a good idea as to those available to us (broken down by race and gender) from the Census Data. We compare our onboard workforce (by race and gender) to those available to hire to determine if we are “underrepresented” in a specific job series.

Agency policies, procedures and hiring practices may be contributing to discrepancies in representation, and if we identify certain actions we are taking that are contributing to under representation, we develop strategies (or “initiatives”) to correct them (updating PD’s, expanding sources of hiring and methods of advertising, educating hiring managers, etc.) and then apply some type of system of measure to monitor changes and effects these changes may have.

An Affirmative Employment Initiative is a means of reducing under representation, such as those described above. Examples of broader initiatives are a plan to develop a relationship with Hispanic serving institutions to get Hispanic students there interested in Fisheries, forging a relationship with an organization that can help us recruit Asian Wildlife Biologists, or using the Workforce Recruitment program to employ students with disabilities.


What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. The keyword is “unwelcome” meaning the action is not condoned, reciprocated or invited.

There are two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo or hostile work environment. Quid pro quo means “this for that” or preferential treatment in exchange for sexual favors. Hostile work environment, the more common type, can be present between opposite sexes or within the same sex and can be created by a co-worker, peer, supervisor or third party. Sexual harassment can be physical, verbal and/or non-verbal in nature.


What is the difference between impact and intent?

In the areas of sexual harassment and hostile work environment, impact refers to the result that actions or behaviors have on others, as perceived by them. Someone may have not intended to offend someone else or to create a hostile work environment but if the impact (perception) is such that the other person interprets it to be hostile or harassing, that is what the courts may find.


What is the difference between “disparate treatment” and “disparate impact”?

Disparate treatment is a form of discrimination where an employee is treated differently from others based on their gender, ethnicity, race, culture, language, etc.

Disparate impact refers to a facially neutral policy or practice that is designed to treat everyone equally, but has the effect of negatively impacting certain groups more than others and cannot be justified by business necessity (a legal term). Disparate impact is also sometimes referred to as adverse impact.


What are some important things for supervisors to remember during the Complaint Process involving sexual harassment or hostile work environment?

First of all, take the complaint seriously and remain neutral. You’ll need to conduct interviews with the complainant, the accused and any witnesses. Try to find out where it happened, who was involved and if there were witnesses, if it has happened before, and if the person was told the behavior was unacceptable. The supervisor’s responsibility is to gather information, take appropriate actions and resolve issues at the lowest possible level.

Contact your supervisor and your Human Resources Office for more specific guidance. The complainant should be told that you, as the supervisor, must report the compliant to your HR Office, but that the complaint will remain confidential in the investigatory phase. At some point in the process however, the complainant will have to give permission for the one being accused to find out who is filing the complaint.


What accommodations are supervisors required to make under the Rehabilitation Act for persons with disabilities? Also, what is an undue hardship?

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires Federal agencies to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified employees and applicants who have a disability, where that disability is known by the employer. This Act also states that it is illegal to discriminate against employees with disabilities.

In order for you to have to make a reasonable accommodation, the person must be “qualified”, which means they must be able to perform the essential job functions with or without an accommodation. Reasonable accommodation could include making facilities accessible, job changes such as modifying schedules, equipment acquisitions, providing an interpreter or redistributing marginal job functions.

Undue hardship is an action that is excessively costly, extensive, substantial, or disruptive, or that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the organization. If making an accommodation creates an undue hardship, it is no longer “reasonable” and therefore, the organization will not be required to make it.


What is the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP)? Also, what assistance do they provide?

The Department of the Interior (DOI) has an agreement with the Department of Defense (DOD) Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) to provide free assistive technology hardware, software, associated upgrades or related training to DOI employees. In order to qualify for computer assistive technology, employees should have a medical condition that can be accommodated by one or more of the technologies that CAP covers. If employees are not familiar with a technology that may suit their needs, they must have a needs assessment performed by the DOI Accessible Technology Center, or an outside organization hired by CAP, to evaluate the appropriate equipment needed to help perform their jobs. Once the assessment phase has been completed, CAP may provide the accessible accommodation at no cost to DOI or the employee. DOD CAP accommodations are for federal employees only.

The following is a list of some of the available assistive technology accommodations and services:

Blind/Low Vision
· Screen readers
· Closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTV) and text enlargement software
· Scanners
· Braille displays and embossers
· Portable note takers

Deaf and Hard of Hearing
· Teletypewriters (TTYs), PC-TTYs, networked TTYs
· Closed captioning encoders to provide captioning
· Video communication devices for video relay services
· Amplified telephone equipment and assistive listening devices
· Telephone signaling devices

Dexterity (a doctor’s note with medical diagnosis is required)
· Speech recognition software
· Ergonomic equipment such as alternative mice and keyboards for individuals with

  repetitive strain injuries
· Alternative keyboards and pointing devices
· Headsets and microphones

· Word prediction software
· Software for individuals with learning disabilities

Additional CAP Services:
· A computer or laptop to those employees with disabilities with a teleworking agreement
· Installation of hardware/software
· Upgrades of existing hardware/software/equipment to the most recent version; provide

  serial number for upgrades
· Training on how to use assistive technologies (hardware and software)

CAP does not provide:
· furniture including chairs
· building accessibility
· pagers for the deaf
· large screen monitors

Assistive technologies are also available to Human Resources, Training, Security, and Equal Employment Opportunity Offices, and libraries for members of the public to contact the agency.

To learn more about CAP services, contact Jennifer Meltz, Disability Resource Analyst, in the Accessible Technology Center. Ms. Meltz can be reached via telephone (202) 208-5481, TTY (202) 208-6248, or e-mail Also, you may visit the Accessible Technology Center website and the DOD CAP website for more information.


Does the term “hostile work environment” always have to relate to the categories under EEO such as gender, race, and religion?

Technically, yes. This legal term is often misused in that it is applied to any situation where an employee feels they are being harassed. The term “hostile work environment” is derived from EEO case law and specifically relates to the EEO categories which include sexual harassment based on hostile work environment.