Every base maintains an Equal Opportunity (EO) office with an advisor who handles complaints of discrimination or sexual harassment. Equal Opportunity complaints are Inspector General complaints that are first screened and evaluated by a designated Equal Opportunity officer or office. Complaints can also be made to sexual harassment hotlines run by each Service.
Policies vary from Service to Service, and its important to review the specific regulations before preparing a case. In general, the EO office has a greater responsibility to the military than to the individual complainant and is not intended primarily to serve as an advocate for victims of discrimination or harassment. Equal Opportunity personnel frequently encourage complainants to try to resolve the issues informally through their chain of command before filing a complaint. Confidentiality is not guaranteed during EO proceedings; in some cases, EO personnel will inform the command and the specific person complained against about the complaint.
Until recently, servicemembers often had to file Article 138 complaints for instances of discrimination or harassment. While the methods for handling Equal Opportunity complaints have been recently revised, the "consensus" among participants at the 1992 NAACPM hearings was that "local commanders control [Equal Opportunity] personnel by writing or influencing their performance reports". Despite such problems, these complaints can be useful, and well-prepared complaints or those handled by committed EO personnel may have a strong impact.
Complaints may be filed for discrimination or sexual harassment. The DoD considers that unlawful discrimination against persons or groups based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin is contrary to good order and discipline. Unlawful discrimination is that not otherwise authorized by law or regulation.
Sexual harassment, considered a form of sex discrimination, is defined as conduct of a sexual nature that either involves a threat or promise of career consequences, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment. The definition of a servicemember's workplace may include conduct on or off duty, 24 hours a day.