Dealing With Discrimination in the Federal Workplace

Recent events in Indiana and Arkansas have renewed the national dialog about illegal discrimination, whether it involves discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, age, religion or gender. It's an important conversation to have, and not least because discrimination in the workplace can drain the energy from an organization and take the focus away from getting a job done.

In many ways, the federal government has been a role model for other employers in the country. For example, a recent report from the Office of Personnel Management on the status of women in government shows that women hold 34 percent of the positions in the Senior Executive Service, compared with only 14.6 percent of executive positions in the private sector. And an executive order signed in 1998 affirmed the policy of nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation in federal employment at a time when policies outside government were less clear.

However, while it's good to celebrate progress, it's also important to understand that there is more to be done in the public sector -- and that discrimination involves more than who is hired and fired. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, harassment is the most commonly alleged issue in discrimination complaints filed by federal employees every year. It accounts for 30 percent of the appeals resolved by the EEOC.

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