Unleash No FEAR: The Need for Civil Rights Accountability in the Federal Government

On May 15, 2002, Congress passed the Notification and Federal Anti-Discrimination and Retaliation (No FEAR) Act after hearing testimony that federal workforce abuse reduces the U.S. federal government’s ability to effectively execute with integrity essential programs such as air safety, pollution prevention, water treatment, waste management, food inspection, and disaster assistance.

President George W. Bush signed the Act into law. The No FEAR Act, Public Law 107–174, was to “put the bite into federal employment discrimination.” Specifically, the No FEAR Act was to make federal managers and agencies more accountable to their employees when allegations of discrimination, retaliation, and harassment are made. Despite the No FEAR Act’s intent, several years after passing the law the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported that public officials continue to engage in retaliation.

Of course, present and former federal employees, injured due to workplace abuse are not surprised by surges in federal discrimination complaints. A 2013 report by the Coalition for Change, Inc. (C4C) entitled Obstacle 1: The Denial of A Reality disclosed that federal agencies are more inclined to reward No FEAR Act lawbreakers rather than to punish them. Federal managers, who are in positions of power and authority, too often inflict egregious acts because they can do so without facing any consequences. Presently, no “mandatory” requirement exists to hold federal officials accountable for breaking civil rights laws.

Discrimination in the federal sector endangers the nation’s security, impedes agency productivity and leaves taxpayers with a hefty price to pay due to years of costly litigation. For example, class action lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Pigford vs. Vilsack) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (Cobell vs. Salazar) have cost taxpayers in the billions of dollars. Still, rather than provide mandatory corrective disciplinary measures for civil rights violations, lawbreakers are predictably afforded free attorneys. They are also routinely given professional liability insurance.

Taxpayers should demand that lawmakers “Unleash No FEAR” and close the “loophole” in the No FEAR Act as it relates to discipline for violations. Presently, the No FEAR Act only requires federal agencies “to report” to Congress if any discipline is taken against a public official who breaks the law. It does not require agencies “to impose discipline” when a public official is found guilty of breaking the law. To better secure our nation, we must enforce civil rights laws and we must hold civil rights violators accountable.


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