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Special Emphasis Programs

About Special Emphasis Programs

Special Emphasis Programs (SEP) are an integral part of the Equal Employment Opportunity and Civil Rights Program. The purpose of these programs is to ensure that agencies take affirmative steps to provide equal opportunity to all NASA employees in all areas in the employee life cycle. The term, "Special Emphasis Programs," refers specifically to employment related programs, which focus special attention on groups that are conspicuously absent or have a lower than expected participation rate in a specific occupational category or grade level in the agency's work force. These programs serve as a channel to management officials. The goals of the Special Emphasis Programs are to:

  • Improve employment and advancement opportunities for their respective constituents in the Federal service;
  • Identify systemic causes of discrimination against minorities, women and people with disabilities;
  • Seek ways to help minorities, women and people with disabilities to advance by using their skills more fully;
  • Monitor agency progress in eliminating discrimination and adverse impact on minorities, women and people with disabilities in employment and agency programs; and
  • Educate Federal employees and managers about the extent of various forms of discrimination within the Federal Service.

Special observances were designed for providing cultural awareness to everyone. Commemorative activities conducted for these observances should be educational and employment-related. Observances celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; African American Heritage; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) equal rights; Asian Pacific Americans; Women's History & Women’s Equality Day; Hispanic Heritage; Disability Awareness; and American Indian/Alaskan Native Heritage.

Special Emphasis Program Managers (SEPM)

SEPM’s are members of the management team. They should participate in the review of agency policies, practices, and procedures in order to help eliminate any that discriminate against minorities, women and people with disabilities. SEP Managers also analyze information and data and present recommendations to improve all aspects of employment as they relate to the respective constituencies. These Managers serve as subject matter experts, staff advisors, fact finders, sources of information and program advocates. Therefore, individuals selected for these positions must remain objective and operate in a professional manner at all times.

Most agencies have established SEPs for the following: Hispanic Employment Program (HEP), the Federal Women's Program (FWP), African American, Asian American Pacific Islander Program, Native American Program, and Disability Program Manager (DPM). The primary goals of Special Emphasis Programs are to identify and eliminate discriminatory practices and to assure the target groups are appropriately represented throughout the workforce.

Historical Perspective

Special Emphasis Programs receive their authority from Federal statues, regulations, and Presidential Executive Orders, which include, but are not limited to, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Rehabilitation Act, and Equal Employment Opportunity Act. These authorities require Federal agencies to conduct affirmative recruitment of women, minorities and persons with disabilities.

As early as 1940, racial discrimination was banned in the Federal service. The Ramspeck Act made it illegal for anyone in the Federal government to be discriminated against based on based on race, color, national origin or creed (religion).

President Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order 8587, coupled with the passage of the Hatch Act in 1939 and the Ramspeck Act in 1940, began the process of dismantling racial segregation. President Truman continued this process in 1948 when he issued executive orders, which banned racial segregation in the military and outlawed racial discrimination in the Federal government.

Through President Truman's Executive Order 9980, Federal agencies were directed to:

  1. Initiate relations with relevant minority organizations in order to facilitate a larger pool of minority job applicants,
  2. Conduct periodic surveys to assess the number of minority employees working in each agency,
  3. Develop and adopt new recruitment strategies designed to facilitate equal employment opportunities for members of minority groups, and
  4. Develop training programs for all lower-level employees, where the majority of minority members were to be found, so that they might receive the prerequisite skills for promotions.

Affirmative Employment Program (AEP)

AEP monitors operations that effect equal employment opportunity (EEO) at Goddard, with the goal of identifying EEO barriers and collaborating with the appropriate parties needed to develop effective solutions to eliminate those barriers

The Affirmative Employment Program Manager (AEPM), reviews recruitment, retainment, selection, promotion, training, and career development trends affecting Goddard’s community. The AEP works in collaboration with the Advisory Committees (AC) in plans and programming designed to address any concerns raised by the AC.

Because Goddard takes seriously its ongoing obligation to eliminate triggers and/or barriers, the AEPM leads a Center-wide MD-715 core team in routinely conducting an assessment of (and report about) the Center’s status and progress as it relates to six essential elements of a model EEO organization, as communicated via the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC’s) Management Directive 715 (MD-715)

  1. Demonstrated Commitment by Leadership
  2. Integration of EEO into the Strategic Mission
  3. Management and Program Accountability
  4. Proactive Prevention of Unlawful Discrimination
  5. Efficiency
  6. Responsiveness and Legal Compliance

Through MD-715, the AEPM collaborates with the MD-715 team to identify areas that should be addressed in order to comply with EEOC requirements, and to formulate plans to correct possible barriers and/or program deficiencies affecting employee and applicants’ for employment. Since this effort pertains to a number of Human Capital processes (i.e., recruitment, hiring, selection, promotion, retention and career development), the AEPM works in partnership with Goddard’s Office of Human Capital Management. Other key partners and stakeholders on the team include the SEPMs, the Center’s Diversity and Inclusion Program Office and the Center’s Office of Education. Plans are underway to engage active involvement at the Directorate level as well. The AEPM routinely advises senior leadership and management on MD-715 and key action items needed to move the Center towards a “model EEO organization” status.

Hispanic Employment Program

The Hispanic Employment Program is a special emphasis program established by President Richard Nixon in 1970, with the overall objective to ensure that Hispanics have an equal opportunity to compete fairly in all aspects of Federal employment; i.e., recruitment, training, upward mobility, career counseling, developmental details, promotions, and any other condition of employment. Goddard strives to ensure that Hispanic employees are represented in every organizational element, occupational series, and at all grade levels.

Hispanic Program-Related Links:

Federal Women's Program  

The Federal Women's Program supports the career development and advancement of women, including minority women and women with disabilities at NASA. The objective of the program is to implement initiatives that will increase the number of women in the NASA work force, commensurate with their numbers in the national work force, particularly in science and engineering fields and at senior levels, and help to ensure equity in promotions, awards, and all employment related actions. To remain competitive in a technological, rapidly evolving world, NASA strives to utilize the best and brightest of both genders.

Federal Women's Program-Related Links:

Asian American and Pacific Islander Program (AAPIP)

NASA's Asian American and Pacific Islander Program focuses on promoting overall awareness of the valuable contributions of Asian employees to the Agency. The Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC) located in Washington, D.C., serves as an interagency association within the Federal and District of Columbia governments, providing a focus for over 30 ethnically distinct groups originating from Asian and Pacific regions as recognized by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. It is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization representing the civilian and military Asian employees in the Federal and District of Columbia governments. NASA strives to ensure that Asian employees are represented in every organizational element, occupational series, and at all grade levels.

AAPIP Program-Related Links:

Native American Program

Executive Order 13270, signed by President George W. Bush in July 2002, reaffirmed the Federal Government's commitment to tribal colleges. President Bush reiterated the unique relationship between the U.S. and Alaska Native entities and stated that it is the policy of the Federal Government that this Nation's commitment to educational excellence and opportunity must extend as well to the tribal colleges and universities that serve Indian tribes and Alaska Native entities. NASA enthusiastically supports President Bush's vision and strives to ensure that Native Americans have an equal opportunity to compete fairly in all aspects of Federal employment; i.e., recruitment, training, upward mobility, career counseling, developmental details, promotions, and any other condition of employment. NASA strives to ensure that Native American employees are represented in every organizational element, occupational series, and at all grade levels.

Native American Program-Related Links:

Black Employment Program

The objectives of Goddard’s Black Employment Program are to ensure equal employment opportunity in the hiring, advancement, and training of Black employees and to strive towards the achievement of a Federal work force in which Black employees are represented in every organizational element, occupational series, and grade level. NASA strives to ensure that Blacks have an equal opportunity to compete in all aspects of Federal employment; i.e., recruitment, training, upward mobility, career counseling, developmental details, promotions, and any other condition of employment.

Program-Related Links:

Disability Program

According to U.S. Office of Personnel Management's People with Disabilities in the Federal Government: An Employment Guide, Federal agency managers and supervisors are responsible for the employment and advancement of people with disabilities which includes training and career development. Therefore, it is essential for Goddard managers and supervisors to provide training and career development for our employees with disabilities enhancing them with the development of job skills and tools needed to perform their jobs more productively.

Through the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Acts 2009, the Department can hire through traditional competitive hiring processes or by means of a non-competitive, or special appointing authority.  In addition, we are committed to providing reasonable accommodation throughout the hiring process and employment.

Eligibility Requirements

To be considered an individual with a disability, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • have a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of your major life activities;
  • have a record of such an impairment; or,
  • be regarded as having such an impairment.

For additional information, consult the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Programs

LGBTQ Special Emphasis

LGBT Advisory Committee (LGBTAC) - Goddard…

Reasonable Accommodation

Goddard provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities. If you need a reasonable accommodation for any part of the job application and hiring process, and you meet the eligibility requirements listed above, please notify the human resources specialist listed on the vacancy announcement, or contact the Human Resources Office at the location in which you are seeking employment.  The decision on granting a reasonable accommodation is handled on a case-by-case basis.

For more information, please visit:

Personal Assistance Services

Federal agencies are required to provide personal assistance services (PAS) during working hours to qualified persons with disabilities, who need assistance with performing activities of daily living that an individual would typically perform if he or she did not have a disability, and that is not otherwise required as an accommodation.  These services include, for example, assistance with removing and putting on clothing, eating, and using the restroom.  Individuals may use the Goddard’s reasonable accommodation process to request PAS.  For additional information about PAS, please visit:

Special Appointing Authorities

NASA Goddard has established special appointing authorities for people with disabilities.  Goddard has the authority to use a special appointing authority to hire a qualified person with a disability for vacant positions.  These special appointing authorities include:

  • 5 CFR 213.3102(ll) for hiring readers, interpreters and personal assistants.  This excepted authority is used to appoint readers, interpreters and personal assistants for employees with severe disabilities.
  • 5 CFR 213.3102(t) for hiring people with intellectual disabilities.  This excepted authority is used to appoint persons with intellectual disabilities who have demonstrated satisfactory performance through a temporary appointment, or have been certified as likely to succeed in performing the duties of the job.  They may qualify for conversion to permanent status after two years of satisfactory service.
  • 5 CFR 213.3102(u) for hiring people with severe physical disabilities.  This excepted authority is used to appoint persons with severe physical disabilities who have demonstrated satisfactory performance through a temporary appointment, or have been certified as likely to succeed in performing the duties of the job.  After two years of satisfactory service, they may qualify for conversion to permanent status.
  • 5 CFR 213.3102(gg) - Positions filled by persons with psychiatric disabilities who have demonstrated their ability to perform satisfactorily under a temporary appointment [such as one authorized in 213.3102(i)(3)] or who are certified as likely to be able to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodations, by a State vocational rehabilitation counselor, a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Benefits Administration psychologist, vocational rehabilitation counselor, or psychiatrist.  Upon completion of 2 years of satisfactory service under this authority, the employee can be converted, at the discretion of the agency, to competitive status under the provisions of Executive Order 12125 as amended by Executive Order 13124.