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Wed, 05.15.2002

The ‘No Fear Act’ is Signed into Law

Marsha Adebayo

On this date in 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No FEAR Act.

The Notification and Federal Employee Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR Act) was the first civil rights law of the 21st century. No FEAR, among other things, requires agencies to make employees aware of discrimination and whistleblower protection laws. This provision is the result of the tireless work of Marsha Coleman-Adebayo.

The moment was a milestone in her long struggle to protect federal employees from discrimination in the workplace. Coleman-Adebayo holds a B.A. in foreign affairs and economics from Barnard and a political science doctorate from M.I.T.  She joined the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an African affairs specialist in 1990.

While serving in the Gore-Mbeki Commission, she reported that toxic waste generated by an American company was poisoning African workers and their families.  But instead of being applauded for her discovery, she was forced out of the commission. The event was the first in a long line of discriminatory episodes she suffered at the EPA.

Coleman-Adebayo eventually won a landmark discrimination case in federal court against the EPA in August 2000. Adebayo said: "I endured five years of racial and sexual discrimination." She later testified at a legislative hearing for the No FEAR Act. "I was called by derogatory racial epithets and excluded from any possibility of career advancement. When I filed a complaint, I, like so many employees, became the target of daily harassment and unrelenting retaliation."


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