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Special Emphasis Programs

The Civil Rights Directorate supports several Special Emphasis Programs which focus special attention on specific groups as required by law, regulation or Executive Order, in addition to the employment related concerns of groups where a need for special emphasis or employment concerns have been demonstrated.

DHS Directive Equal Employment Opportunity Special Emphasis Program (31 Aug 2015)



Federal Women's Program (FWP)

This program was established to implement a recommendation of the President's Committee on the Status of Women and was later integrated into the Federal EEO Program after the issuance of E.O 11478 (August 1969).  The activities of the FWP focus on employment needs and problems of women as they relate to Federal personnel policies and practices.

Hispanic Emphasis Program (HEP)

This program was established initially by a Presidential Directive in 1970 as a Sixteen-Point Program for Spanish-speaking Americans.  It was designed to assure consideration of the needs and problems of persons of Hispanic origin in all aspects of Federal personnel management. Hispanics are persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.

Disability Emphasis Program (DEP)

Formerly known as the Selective Placement Program (SPP) for the Handicapped, this program contains organized action plans and procedures which promote the hiring, placement, and advancement of employees with disabilities.  The  SPP has its modern origins in P.L. 89-554, codified as 5 USC 7153, and Presidential policy statements and regulations issued pursuant thereto.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued instruction (501) on affirmative action plans for persons with disabilities. For information on a range of topics to help supervisors achieve recruitment and hiring goals, visit the OPM site located here:

Veterans Emphasis Program

This program is directed at assuring that all veterans, particularly Vietnam Era and disabled veterans, have the full measure of employment in the Federal service. The legal basis for the program includes the Veterans Preference Act of 1944 (5 USC 2108); non-competitive appointing authority for 30 percent or more disabled veterans (5 USC 3114), the Veterans Readjustment Appointment (EO 11521); and the Vietnam Era Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (38 USC 2104).  

Non-legislated or Non-mandated Programs

Coast Guard commands and units can address the employment-related concerns of Asian American/Pacific Islanders, American Indian/Alaskan Natives, and African Americans. 


Coast Guard Special Observances 2024

USCG Special Observances Calendar 2024 (Downloadable)

Special Observances are command functions that support equal opportunity goals and Coast Guard core values and provide cultural awareness to the Service’s workforce. Accommodating, celebrating, and learning about each other’s customs and traditions is not only a valuable part of the human experience, but it fosters a culture of inclusion that make employees feel recognized and valued. The Coast Guard participates in and supports the following eleven special observances throughout the year which are implemented by Presidential Proclamation, Executive Orders, Bills, or Public Laws:

January- Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 15, 2024)

February- Black History Month (Feb. 1-29, 2024)

March- Women’s History Month (March 1-31, 2024)

May- Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (May 1-31, 2024)

May- Days of Remembrance (May 5-12, 2024)

June- LGBTQ+ Pride Month (June 1-30, 2024)

June- Juneteenth (June 19, 2024)

August- Women’s Equality Day (Aug. 26, 2024)

September- National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15, 2024)

October- National Disability Employment Awareness Month (Oct. 1-31, 2024)

November- National Native American Heritage Month (Nov. 1-30, 2024)

January 15th, 2024: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Perennial Theme: Remember! Act! Celebrate! A Day On, Not a Day Off.
Authority: Public Law 98-144
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated every third Monday in January and Dr. King’s birthday is also celebrated this month on January 15th. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a social activist and Baptist minister who played a key role in the American Civil Rights movement. He led campaigns to end racial segregation and focused his efforts on the vision for a future where all individuals are created equal and are treated with mutual dignity and respect. A bill to establish this observance successfully passed through both houses of Congress in 1983 and President Reagan signed it into law on November 20th of that year. The first Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday was celebrated in 1986 to pay tribute to his life, messages, and achievements. In 1994, President Clinton signed the King Holiday and Service Act, transforming the observance into a day for citizen action and volunteerism. The perennial theme is “Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On, Not A Day Off.” Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only federal holiday designated as a National Day of Service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.

February: Black History Month
2024 ThemeAfrican Americans and the Arts
Authority: Public Law 99-244
Black History Month is recognized every February and during this time, the nation celebrates the history, accomplishments, and contributions Black Americans have made in the U.S. In 1926, historian and author Dr. Carter G. Woodson, instituted the first week long celebration in February to raise awareness to African American contributions to U.S. history and culture. This month was chosen because it includes the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two key figures in the history of Black Americans. In 1976, the week became a month and President Ford issued the first Message on the Observances of Black History Month in that year. Annually, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAALH), founded by Dr. Woodson, sets the theme for the month.

March: Women's History Month
2024 ThemeWomen Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Authority: Public Law 97-28; 100-9
President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8th, 1980 as National Women’s History Week. The next year, U.S. Congress passed public law 97-28 which recognized seven days in March 1982 as “Women’s History Week.” In 1987, the National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned Congress to designate March as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, Presidents have issued annual proclamations designating March as a time for emphasizing women’s contributions to our nation’s history and recognizing their achievements.

May: Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
2024 Theme: Advancing Leaders Through Innovation
Authority: Title 36, U.S. Code, Section 102
This observance honors the determination of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) and celebrates all they have given to building our great nation along with their rich history and culture. The AANHPI community encompasses more than 50 ethnic/language groups. The observance began in 1979 as Asian Heritage Week which was established by congressional proclamation. President George H.W. Bush designated May 1990 as the first Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. Two years later in 1992, U.S. Congress officially designated May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. May signifies two important events in AANHPI history: the first Japanese immigrant arrived in the U.S. on May 7, 1843, and the transcontinental railroad was completed on May 10, 1869. This initiative involved more than 20,000 Chinese workers.

May 5-12: Days of Remembrance
2024 Theme: Behind Every Name a Story: The Courageous
Authority: Public Law 96-388
U.S. Congress established the Holocaust Days of Remembrance as the Nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust. This observance honors the lives and memory of the six million Jews who were killed during the Holocaust, as well as the millions of other victims of Nazi persecution. The dates for the Holocaust Days of Remembrance vary each year according to the Hebrew calendar. In 2024, the Holocaust Days of Remembrance will be observed May 5-12, 2024, and include Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) observed on May 6.

June: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and other (LGBTQ+) Pride Month
2024 Theme: Living Our Truth
Authority: Presidential Proclamation Issued Annually
Pride Month pays honor to the legacy of the members of the LGBTQ+ community whose accomplishments and contributions have strengthened our service and our nation. In June 1969, patrons and supporters of New York City’s Stonewall Inn staged an uprising to protest against harassment and mistreatment that members of the LGBTQ+ community faced. This event marked a tipping point in history when LGBTQ+ members and their allies fought to outlaw a history of discriminatory laws and practices against them. Pride Month commemorates the Stonewall Uprising and acts as a reminder to achieve equal opportunity and representation for the LGBT+ community. President Clinton was the first President to proclaim a National observance of Gay and Lesbian Pride Month in June 1999 and on June 2, 2000, President Clinton issued Proclamation No. 7316 for Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. On June 1, 2009, President Obama issued Proclamation No. 8387 for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.

June 19th: Juneteenth
2024 Theme: Freedom Opportunity Celebrated
Authority: Presidential Proclamation Issued AnnuallyIn 2021, President Joseph R. Biden signed the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act,” which recognized June 19th as a federal holiday. Combining June and Nineteenth, Juneteenth commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States and is historic because it did not occur with President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. Rather, nearly two years later, Union soldiers arrived at Galveston, Texas, with a General Order stating that the war had ended and that slaves were free. The General Order stated: “… in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”

August 26th: Women’s Equality Day
Authority: Public Law 93-105
On August 26, our Nation celebrates Women's Equality Day to commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote nationally. The observance provides an opportunity to reflect on the role of women in public life and continuing efforts towards full equality. In 1848, the first women’s rights conference was held in New York, known as the Seneca Falls Convention. The meeting launched the women’s suffrage movement and propelled peaceful civil rights movements throughout the nation which later ensured women the right to vote more than 70 years later. In 1971, Representative Bella Abzug advocated for a bill to designate August 26 as “Women’s Equality Day.” In 1972, Richard Nixon issued a Presidential Proclamation designating August 26, as "Women's Rights Day” and the following year, Congress formally adopted the date as "Women's Equality Day."

September 15-October 15: National Hispanic Heritage Month
2024 Theme: Pioneers of Change: Shaping the Future Together
Authority: Title 36, U.S. Code, Section 126; Public Law 100-402 
From September 15 to October 15, our Nation celebrates and honors the cultures and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans. National Hispanic Heritage Month’s observance period is significant because it holds the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Also, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18. This observance started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Johnson and was expanded to the month-long celebration it is now by President Reagan in 1988.

October: National Disability Employment Awareness Month
2024 Theme: Access to Good Jobs for All
Authority: Title 36, U.S. Code, Section 121
The federal government and employers across the U.S. observe National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) every October. The observance raises awareness of the numerous and varied achievements of people with disabilities to America's workplaces and economy. The observances history begins in 1945 when Congress created a law declaring the first week of October of each year as “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the name was changed, and the word “physically” was dropped to be more inclusive of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress extended the week to a month while changing the name once more to National Disability Employment Awareness Month. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law which bans discrimination on the basis of disability and guarantees individuals with disabilities the same opportunities as everyone else for equal participation.

November: National Native American Heritage Month
2024 Theme: TBD
Authority: Public Law 103-462
Beginning in 1976, Congress designated a week in October “Native American Awareness Week” to recognize the importance of the contributions made to our society by Native Americans. Each year thereafter, legislation was enacted to continue this proclamation until 1990, when President George H.W. Bush moved the observance to November and designated the entire month as National Native American Heritage Month. Currently, the federal government recognizes 574 American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and villages in the United States. National Native American Heritage Month serves as a reminder of the positive impacts which this vibrant community have on the cultural development and growth of the U.S.