President Bush signed legislation Wednesday that will make federal agencies more accountable for discrimination and retaliation against employees.
The Notification and Federal Employee Anti-Discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2001 (No FEAR) requires agencies that lose or settle discrimination and whistleblower cases to pay judgments out of their own budgets. Those judgments are currently paid out of a general government fund.
No FEAR requires agencies to make employees aware of discrimination and whistleblower protection laws. Agencies also must now file an annual report detailing the number of discrimination or whistleblower cases filed against them, how the cases were resolved, the amount of settlements and the number of agency employees disciplined for discriminating against other workers or harassing them.
"No longer will discrimination and retaliation be swept under the rug and considered an inconvenience for working at a federal agency," said Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and sponsor of the No FEAR bill.
The House unanimously passed the bill (H.R. 169) last October, and the Senate approved the legislation with minor changes in April.
Allegations of discrimination at the Environmental Protection Agency prompted the No FEAR bill, which Sensenbrenner and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, introduced in October 2000. In August 2000, a black senior manager at the EPA won a $600,000 verdict in a race and gender discrimination suit against the agency.
During an October 2000 hearing before the House Science Committee, then-EPA Administrator Carol Browner and other agency officials vigorously defended the EPA's commitment to diversity.