Q & As


General Questions

What is the purpose of the DOE Office of Science Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Policies webpage? Has the DOE or the Office of Science established any new DEI policies?

This site was established to communicate the DOE Office of Science’s (SC) continued commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and in support of this commitment, make DOE’s existing policies, regulations, and procedures regarding discrimination and harassment more accessible to the scientific community and the institutions and individuals receiving DOE SC funding.

Currently, this site consists of existing DOE policies already in effect.  If and when new DOE or SC policies, practices, resources, and communications are developed or existing policies updated, SC will update this website and/or link to new information.

What is harassment?

Harassment includes any unwelcome conduct or reprisal (verbal, written, or physical) that is based on an individual’s race, color, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), religion, national origin, age, disability (physical or mental), genetic information, or participation in protected equal employment opportunity (EEO) activities including making reports or allegations of harassment or providing information related to such allegations. (10 CFR 1040, 1041, and 1042)

Harassing behaviors can be non-sexual or sexual, including bullying, intimidation, violence, threats of violence, retaliation, and other disruptive behaviors or unwelcome conduct that: (1) has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an employee' s work performance; (2) creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment; or (3) affects an employee's employment opportunities or compensation.

What is sexual-harassment?

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature including, but not limited to, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors (i.e., sexual coercion, including quid pro quo), physical conduct of a sexual nature, or other similar behavior. Sexual harassment also includes verbal and nonverbal behaviors that convey hostility, objectification, exclusion, or second-class status about members of a particular gender (e.g., gender harassment) (NAS 2018).

What is discrimination?

Discrimination refers to the treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit. Discrimination can be the effect of law or established practice that confers privileges on a certain class or denies privileges to a certain class. DOE prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s race, color, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), religion, national origin, age, disability (physical or mental), genetic information, or participation in protected equal employment opportunity (EEO) activities.

What is retaliation?

Retaliation can be a form of discrimination or harassment where an individual is subjected to an adverse employment action or harassment, solely because he or she filed a charge of discrimination or harassment, participated in an EEO investigation, proceeding, or hearing, or took other similar action in opposition to unlawful discrimination or harassment.

Where can I find more information about DOE’s policies for addressing discrimination and sexual harassment?

Information about DOE’s policies and regulations can be found on the DOE Office of Science’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion website, or on the website of DOE’s Office of Civil Rights and Diversity (OCRD).

Does the Department of Energy have the authority and a process for investigating allegations of sexual harassment reported directly to DOE?

Yes. DOE’s Office of Civil Rights and Diversity (OCRD) is responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance with civil rights regulations that apply to DOE financial assistance recipients. Financial assistance recipients may be colleges or universities, non-profit or for-profit organizations. OCRD has established authorities and procedures for receiving and investigating complaints involving discrimination or harassment, including complaints of sexual and non-sexual harassment.

OCRD also has responsibility for receiving and investigating complaints by DOE federal employees involving discrimination or harassment.

DOE has broad authorities for investigating any issues regarding its National Laboratories or sites. For the 16 DOE national laboratories operated under a Management & Operating (M&O) contracts, the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) also conducts compliance evaluations of federal contractors and subcontractors personnel policies and procedures. The office also conducts complaint investigations.

What is federal financial assistance?

Federal financial assistance includes grants and cooperative agreements. It is payment, grant, or disbursement of Federal funds, property, or services received or administered by a non-Federal entity to accomplish a public purpose of support or stimulation as authorized by Federal statute. For the purposes of this policy, the forms of assistance are those given in 2 CFR 200.40(a), Federal Financial Assistance.

Does DOE require academic institutions to notify DOE when a university has put a Principal Investigator on administrative leave due to a pending investigation regarding sexual harassment or final determination of sexual harassment, similar to the new Term and Condition policy of the National Science Foundation?

DOE does not currently have a Term and Condition policy similar to the NSF policy. Recipients of DOE financial assistance awards (grants or cooperative agreement) are currently required to notify the DOE contracting officer whenever a Principal Investigator or approved project director must be absent from the project for more than three months, or when there is a 25 percent reduction in time devoted to the project, for any reason including administrative leave.

The Department is engaged in internal discussions regarding options for pursuing a requirement similar to that required in the NSF Term and Condition policy. 

What is a DOE National Laboratory Management & Operating (M&O) contract?

Sixteen of DOE’s National Laboratories are Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) operated by private sector organizations under sponsoring agreements known as management and operating (M&O) contracts. The M&O contracts are unique in that they are long-term partnerships due to the ongoing and sustained nature of work performed at the laboratories. The work performed under M&O contracts is intimately related to DOE’s mission, is of a long-term and continuing nature, and, among other things, includes special requirements for work direction, safety, security, cost controls, and site management.

The DOE Office of Science stewards 10 of the 16 DOE National Laboratories managed under M&O contracts. The combination of the FFRDC designation and M&O contracting mechanism allows DOE to partner with universities, non-profit, and private entities, and enables the flexibility needed to operate laboratories on the frontier of science and technology while safely and efficiently stewarding the national laboratories as federal R&D resources.

The policies and regulations that apply to DOE M&O contracts are set by federal contracting regulations and DOE regulations, directives, and policies. 



Diversity describes an environment where unique talents and differences of all employees are recognized, respected and valued for professional and mission success. Diversity includes a broad spectrum of characteristics including, but not limited to, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, culture, language, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, family structure, geographic location, diversity of thought, technical expertise, and life experiences. Tapping into this broad spectrum of diversity will enable DOE to deliver on its mission to address energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges on behalf of the American people.


Equity is an approach that ensures everyone has access to the same opportunities and distribution of resources. It is a process, or collection of processes, that acknowledges uneven starting places and continues to correct and address the imbalance.


Inclusion is an outcome of intentional engagement in which all individuals and groups are treated fairly and respectfully, are welcome and supported, and are made to feel valued as being essential to the mission and success of the institution.


Underrepresented is a relative term and it has no meaning without knowing the baseline comparison. It is a more inclusive term that incorporates demographic factors beyond gender, race, and ethnicity, such as disability or socioeconomic status. There are several different baselines that can be used to define “underrepresented” for a particular context. Depending on the focus or goals of an SC Program Office’s effort, any of these might be appropriate: