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  4. Instructions to Federal Agencies for MD-715 Section I The Model EEO Program

Instructions to Federal Agencies for MD-715 Section I The Model EEO Program

This section explains the elements necessary to create and maintain the minimum requirements for MD-715's model EEO program, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehabilitation Act), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 791 and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (Pub. L. 110-325). Although MD-715 imposes specific affirmative employment requirements under Title VII and the Rehabilitation Act, agencies must also comply with the laws enforced by EEOC.

When establishing a model EEO program, an agency should incorporate into the design a structure for effective management, accountability, and self-analysis, which will ensure program success and compliance with MD-715. Agency personnel programs and policies should be evaluated regularly to ascertain whether such programs have any barriers that tend to limit or restrict equitable opportunities for open competition in the workplace.

MD-715 divides the essential elements of a model agency EEO program into six broad categories, as listed below. An agency should review its EEO and personnel programs, policies, and performance standards against all six elements to identify where their EEO program can become more effective.

The six essential elements for a model EEO program, as described in MD-715, are as follows

  1. Demonstrated commitment from agency leadership;
  2. Integration of EEO into the agency's strategic mission;
  3. Management and program accountability;
  4. Proactive prevention of unlawful discrimination;
  5. Efficiency; and
  6. Responsiveness and legal compliance.

These six elements serve as the foundation upon which each agency shall build an EEO program. EEOC designed an Agency EEO Self-Assessment Checklist in Part G to provide an efficient and effective means for each agency to determine whether its overall EEO program complies with MD-715's essential elements. MD-715 now requires all agencies, regardless of size, to complete and submit the checklist to EEOC annually. The following section describes selected measures for each essential element.

  1. Element A - Demonstrated Commitment from Agency Leadership This element requires the agency head to communicate a commitment to equal employment opportunity and a discrimination-free workplace.
    1. The agency issues an effective, up-to-date Policy Statement.
      1. An agency/facility/installation head will issue an EEO policy statement annually, declaring the agency's position against discrimination on any protected basis.
      2. This policy statement must include at least the following principles:
        1. a) Equal employment opportunity for all employees and applicants for employment, regardless of their race, religion, color, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity and sexual orientation), national origin, age, genetic information, or disability.
        2. b) All employees will have the freedom to compete on a fair and level playing field with equal opportunity for competition.
        3. c) Equal employment opportunity covers all personnel/employment programs, management practices, and decisions, including, but not limited to, recruitment/hiring, merit promotion, transfer, reassignments, training and career development, benefits, and separation.
        4. d) Workplace harassment will not be tolerated, and the agency will correct the harassing conduct before it becomes severe or pervasive.
        5. e) Reprisal against one who engaged in protected activity will not be tolerated, and the agency supports the rights of all employees to exercise their rights under the civil rights statutes.
    2. The agency has communicated EEO policies and procedures to all employees.
      1. The EEO policy statement shall be prominently posted in all personnel and EEO offices, throughout the agency, and on the agency's external website.
      2. The agency must disseminate its anti-harassment policy, reasonable accommodation procedures, and other EEO program information to all employees.
      3. EEOC regulations require that the agency prominently post business contact information for EEO Counselors, EEO Officers, Special Emphasis Program Managers, and the EEO Director.
      4. The agency must post its reasonable accommodation procedures, personal assistance services procedures, and other written materials concerning the EEO program on its public website.
      5. The agency must inform its employees of their rights and responsibilities pursuant to the EEO process, anti-harassment program, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process, reasonable accommodation program, and behaviors that could result in discipline. Methods of informing employees may include training, webinars, brochures, emails, or types of written communication.
    3. The agency assesses and ensures EEO Principles are part of its culture.
      1. The agency recognizes employees, supervisors, managers, and units demonstrating superior accomplishment in equal employment opportunity. Types of recognition could include awards, public notices, appreciation events, and/or positive comments in performance appraisals.
      2. The agency utilizes climate assessment surveys (e.g., the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS)) to monitor the perception of EEO principles within the workforce. If the agency utilizes the FEVS, the agency could consider how particular EEO groups answer questions that address opportunities for career advancement, fair evaluation of performance, promotions based on merit, access to training, awards based on performance, lack of reprisal, and support of diversity and inclusion principles.
  2. Element B - Integration of EEO into the Agency's Strategic Mission To ensure that federal agencies achieve their goal of being a model workplace, all managers and employees must view EEO as an integral part of the agency's strategic mission. The success of an agency's EEO program ultimately depends on decisions made by individual managers. The EEO office serves as a resource to these managers by providing direction, guidance, and monitoring of key activities to achieve a diverse workplace free of barriers to equal opportunity. Further, the agency's EEO program should be organized and structured to maintain a workplace that is free from discrimination in any of its management policies, practices, or procedures and supports the agency's mission, as reflected in the strategic plan.
    1. The reporting structure for the EEO program provides the principal EEO official with appropriate authority and resources to effectively carry out a successful EEO program.
      1. The EEO Director reports directly to the agency head. If the agency appoints an agency head designee to supervise the EEO Director, the designee must also oversee the mission-related programmatic offices.
      2. The agency's EEO Director shall also have regular access and an effective means of informing the agency head and other top management officials of the effectiveness, efficiency, and legal compliance of the agency's EEO program. For example, the EEO Director must participate in senior-level staff meetings concerning personnel, budget, technology, and other workforce issues.
      3. Access includes, but is not limited to, the EEO Director giving the State of the Agency briefing to the agency head and other senior management officials. The briefing must thoroughly cover all components of the agency's MD-715 report, including an assessment of the agency's performance in each of the six elements of the model EEO program, as well as a report on the progress of the agency in completing its barrier analysis.
    2. The EEO Director controls all aspects of the EEO program.
      1. The EEO Director is responsible for the implementation of the affirmative employment program, including national and regional EEO plans, reports, and other matters to improve EEO program efficiency and/or eliminate identified barriers to the realization of equality of opportunity.
      2. The EEO Director is responsible for providing timely counseling, investigations, and final agency actions.
      3. The EEO Director also is responsible for ensuring the agency timely complies with EEOC orders, and for evaluating the EEO program and recommending improvements to the agency head.
      4. Where the agency has subordinate level components, the department-level EEO Director must provide effective guidance and coordination for the component-level EEO Officials.
    3. The EEO Director and other EEO professional staff are involved in, and consulted on, management/personnel actions.
      1. EEO program officials participate in agency meetings regarding workforce changes that might negatively impact any protected EEO group, including recruitment strategies, vacancy projections, succession planning, selections for training/career development opportunities, and strategic planning.
      2. The agency's strategic plan references EEO / diversity and inclusion principles.
    4. The agency has sufficient budget and staffing to support the success of the EEO program.
      1. At a minimum, an agency must provide the EEO program with sufficient budget and staffing to successfully implement the following activities:
        1. a) Conduct a self-assessment of the agency for possible program deficiencies;
        2. b) Conduct a thorough barrier analysis of its workforce;
        3. c) Ensure timely, thorough, and fair processing of EEO complaints;
        4. d) Provide all employees and supervisors with training on the EEO program, including retaliation, harassment, religious accommodations, disability accommodations, the EEO complaint process, and ADR;
        5. e) Conduct effective audits of the EEO program in components and field offices, if applicable;
        6. f) Publish and distribute EEO materials;
        7. g) Maintain accurate data collection and analysis systems involving EEO complaints, workforce demographics, and applicant flow data;
        8. h) Administer an effective special emphasis program;
        9. i) Manage an effective anti-harassment program;
        10. j) Manage an effective reasonable accommodation program; and
        11. k) Ensure timely and complete compliance with EEOC orders.
      2. The EEO office has a budget separate from other offices in the agency.
      3. The duties and responsibilities of EEO officials are clearly defined.
      4. The new EEO counselors and investigators receive 32 hours of initial training and the experienced counselors and investigators receive the 8-hour refresher training.
    5. The agency recruits, hires, develops, and retains supervisors and managers who have effective managerial, communications, and interpersonal skills.
      1. The agency provides managers and supervisors with initial and regular refresher training to understand their responsibilities under civil rights laws, and how those responsibilities figure into the success of the agency's EEO program and overall mission.
      2. In particular, managers and supervisors receive periodic training on the EEO process, reasonable accommodation procedures, anti-harassment policy, ADR program, and communication skills.
    6. The agency involves managers in the implementation of its EEO Program.
      1. EEO program officials coordinate the implementation of the special emphasis programs with senior managers.
      2. The agency involves senior managers in the barrier analysis process, including the development and successful implementation of EEO action plans.
  3. Element C - Management and Program Accountability This element requires the agency head to hold all managers, supervisors, and EEO Officials responsible for the effective implementation of the agency's EEO Program and Plan.
    1. The agency conducts regular internal audits of its component and field offices.
      1. Where relevant, the agency conducts regular internal audits of its component and field offices to assess whether program deficiencies exist and the effectiveness of their efforts to remove barriers.
      2. The component and field offices make reasonable efforts to comply with the recommendations of the field audit.
    2. The agency has established procedures to prevent all forms of EEO discrimination.
      1. Consistent with EEOC guidance, agencies must develop a comprehensive anti-harassment policy to prevent and address harassment on all protected bases. The policy should:
        1. a) Establish a separate procedure outside of the EEO complaint process;
        2. b) Require a prompt inquiry of all harassment allegations to prevent or eliminate conduct before it rises to the level of unlawful harassment;
        3. c) Establish a firewall exists between the EEO Director and the Anti-Harassment Coordinator to avoid a conflict of interest. If the anti-harassment program resides within the EEO office, the firewall is a procedure preventing the EEO Director from involvement in the day-to-day functions of the anti-harassment program; and
        4. d) Ensure that the EEO office informs the anti-harassment program of all EEO counseling activity alleging harassment.
      2. Agencies must also establish effective reasonable accommodation procedures that comply with EEOC regulations, enforcement guidance, and other applicable executive orders, guidance, and standards. The procedures should:
        1. a) Appoint a designated agency official or other mechanism to assist with processing requests;
        2. b) Identify a maximum amount of time to process the requests and ensure the requests are processed in a timely manner;
        3. c) Ensure that job applicants can request and receive accommodations during the application and placement processes; and
        4. d) Establish a firewall between the EEO Director and the Reasonable Accommodation Program Manager to avoid a conflict of interest. If the reasonable accommodation program resides within the EEO office, the firewall is a procedure preventing the EEO Director from involvement in the day-to-day functions of the reasonable accommodation program.
      3. In addition, the agency must establish effective procedures to provide personal assistance services (PAS) to eligible employees that comply with EEOC regulations, enforcement guidance, and other applicable executive orders and standards.
        1. a) The PAS procedures may be included within the reasonable accommodation procedures, inserted an addendum to the reasonable accommodation procedures, or issued as a separate document.
        2. b) The agency most post the PAS procedures on its external website.
    3. The agency evaluates managers and supervisors on their efforts to ensure equal employment opportunity.
      1. The successful performance of all managers and supervisors includes their efforts to achieve a workplace free of discrimination. The agency must develop performance standards for managers and supervisors that specifically evaluate their commitment to EEO policies and principles as well as their participation in the EEO program.
      2. The agency requires rating officials to evaluate the performance of managers and supervisors based on their efforts to:
        1. a) Resolve EEO problems/disagreements/conflicts;
        2. b) Ensure the full cooperation of employees with EEO officials;
        3. c) Ensure a workplace that is free from discrimination and retaliation;
        4. d) Ensure that subordinate supervisors have effective managerial, communication, and interpersonal skills to supervise in a workplace with diverse employees;
        5. e) Provide religious accommodations when such accommodations do not cause an undue hardship;
        6. f) Provide disability accommodations when such accommodations do not cause an undue hardship;
        7. g) Assist the EEO Program in identifying and removing barriers to equal opportunity;
        8. h) Support the anti-harassment program in addressing harassing conduct; and
        9. i) Comply with settlement agreements and orders issued by the agency, EEOC, and EEO-related cases from appropriate authorities.
      3. The EEO Director recommends improvements or corrections to the agency head, including remedial or disciplinary actions concerning managers and supervisors who failed in their EEO responsibilities.
      4. The agency regularly implements the EEO Director's recommendations for remedial or disciplinary actions.
    4. The agency ensures effective coordination between its EEO programs and Human Resources (HR) program.
      1. The EEO Director and Human Resources Director meet regularly to assess whether personnel programs, policies, and procedures conform to EEOC laws, instructions, and management directives.
      2. The agency has established timetables to review its merit promotion program, employee recognition awards program, and employee development/training program for systemic barriers.
      3. The EEO and Human Resources offices partner to implement the Affirmative Action Plan for individuals with disabilities, conduct outreach and recruiting initiatives, provide training for managers and employees, identify and remove barriers to equal opportunity, and prepare the MD-715 report.
      4. The EEO office has access to accurate and complete workforce data and other types of requested data, e.g., exit interview data, climate assessment surveys, and grievance data.
    5. Following a finding of discrimination, the agency explores whether it should take a disciplinary action.
      1. The agency has a disciplinary policy and/or table of penalties that covers discriminatory conduct.
      2. Where appropriate, the agency disciplines employees for discriminatory conduct.
      3. When there is a finding of discrimination (or a settlement in which a finding was likely), the agency informs managers and supervisors about the discriminatory conduct. Methods of informing managers and supervisors include training, webinars, brochures, emails, or types of written communication.
    6. EEO Office advises managers/supervisors on EEO matters.
      1. The EEO office provides management/supervisory officials with regular EEO updates, including complaints and workforce data summaries, legal updates, barrier analysis plans, and special emphasis updates.
      2. EEO officials are readily available to answer EEO questions or concerns raised by managers and supervisors.
  4. Element D - Proactive Prevention of Unlawful Discrimination As part of its ongoing obligation to prevent discrimination on the bases of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, reprisal, genetic information, and disability, and to eliminate barriers that impede free and open competition in the workplace, an agency must conduct a self-assessment on at least an annual basis. The self-assessment must identify areas where barriers may operate to exclude certain groups, and develop strategic plans to eliminate identified barriers. For more extensive guidance about the root cause investigation and barrier analysis process, please review Section II.
    1. The agency conducts a reasonable assessment to monitor progress toward achieving equal employment opportunity.
      1. The agency has a process for identifying triggers in the workplace.
      2. The agency regularly uses a variety of information to investigate whether triggers exist: workforce data; complaint/grievance data; exit surveys; employee climate surveys; focus groups; affinity groups; union; program evaluations; special emphasis programs; and/or external special interest groups.
      3. The agency conducts exit interviews or surveys to improve the recruitment, hiring, inclusion, and advancement of people with disabilities.
    2. The agency identifies areas where barriers may exclude EEO groups.
      1. The agency has a process for identifying barriers in the workplace.
      2. The agency regularly examines the impact of management/personnel policies, procedures, and practices for potential barriers.
      3. The agency considers whether an EEO group will be negatively impacted prior to making human resource decisions, such as re-organizations and realignments.
      4. The agency regularly review a variety of information to investigate whether barriers exist: workforce data; complaint/grievance data; exit surveys; employee climate surveys; focus groups; affinity groups; union; program evaluations; special emphasis programs; and/or external special interest groups.
      5. The agency conducts exit interviews or surveys concerning the recruitment, hiring, inclusion, retention, and advancement of individuals with disabilities.
    3. The agency establishes appropriate action plans to remove identified barriers.
      1. The agency tailors action plans to address the identified barriers in a particular policy, procedure, or practice.
      2. If the agency has identified one or more barriers during the reporting period, the agency has implemented a plan and met the target dates for the planned activities.
      3. The agency periodically reviews the effectiveness of the plan.
    4. The agency takes affirmative action to promote the recruitment, hiring, and advancement of qualified people with disabilities and people with targeted disabilities.
      1. The agency has a posted its affirmative action plan on its public website.
      2. The agency takes steps to ensure qualified people with disabilities and targeted disabilities are encouraged to apply for vacancies.
      3. The agency ensures that disability-related questions from members of the public are answered promptly and correctly.
      4. The agency takes specific steps that are reasonably designed to increase the number of persons with disabilities and targeted disabilities until it meets the goals.
  5. Element E - Efficiency This element requires the agency head to ensure that there are effective systems for evaluating the impact and effectiveness of the agency's EEO programs and an efficient and fair dispute resolution process.
    1. The agency maintains an efficient, fair, and impartial complaint resolution process.
      1. The agency must timely implement an EEO complaint program, including EEO counseling, investigations, acceptance/dismissal decisions, final agency decisions, and final actions.
      2. The agency must provide written notification of rights and responsibilities in the EEO process during the initial counseling session.
      3. The agency must hold contractors and employees accountable for poor work product and/or delays.
      4. The agency must submit complaint files and other documents in the proper format to EEOC through the Federal Sector EEO Portal (FedSEP).
    2. The agency has a neutral EEO process.
      1. The agency must establish a clear separation between its EEO complaint program and its defensive function.
      2. To obtain legal sufficiency reviews, the EEO office must have access to sufficient legal resources separate from the agency representative. If the EEO office chooses to utilize the agency representative for legal sufficiency reviews, the agency must establish a firewall between the reviewing attorney and the agency representative and incorporate time frames into the process. Chapter 1(IV) of MD-110 provides that a firewall will prevent the agency's legal defense activity from negatively influencing the agency's process for determining whether discrimination has occurred.
      3. The agency must ensure that its agency representative does not intrude upon the counseling, investigation, and final agency decision stages of the EEO process.
    3. The agency has established and encouraged the widespread use of a fair alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program.
      1. The ADR program is available during the pre-complaint and formal complaint processes.
      2. The ADR program requires a management official with settlement authority, other than the responsible management official named in the complaint, to be available during the dispute resolution process.
      3. Once the agency offers ADR, managers and supervisors have a duty to participate in the ADR process.
      4. The agency annually evaluates the effectiveness of its ADR program.
    4. The agency has effective and accurate data collection systems in place to evaluate its EEO Program.
      1. The agency must have systems in place to accurately collect, monitor, and analyze complaint data, employee demographic data, applicant flow data, recruitment activities, reasonable accommodation requests, and allegations of harassment. These systems will have the ability to provide the data required by the Form 462 and MD-715 report.
      2. The agency has a system to resurvey its workforce on a regular basis.
    5. The agency identifies and disseminates significant trends and best practices in its EEO program.
      1. The agency must monitor trends in its EEO program to determine whether the agency is meeting its obligations under the statutes EEOC enforces.
      2. The agency reviews other agencies' best practices to improve the effectiveness of its EEO program.
      3. The agency compares its performance in the EEO process to other agencies of similar size.
  6. Element F - Responsiveness and Legal Compliance
    1. The agency has processes in place to ensure timely and full compliance with EEOC orders and settlement agreements.
      1. The agency must have a system of management controls to ensure that its officials timely comply with EEOC orders/directives, final agency actions, and resolutions/settlement agreements.
      2. The agency has established procedures to timely process ordered monetary relief and other forms of ordered relief.
      3. When EEOC issues an order requiring compliance, the agency holds its compliances officer(s) accountable for poor work products and/or delays during performance review.
    2. The agency complies with the law, including EEOC regulations, management directives, orders and other written instructions.
      1. The agency timely responds and fully complies with EEOC orders.
      2. When a complainant requests a hearing, the agency must timely submit the investigative file to the appropriate EEOC hearing office.
      3. When there is a finding of discrimination that is not the subject of an appeal, the agency ensures timely compliance with the orders of relief.
      4. When a complainant files an appeal, the agency must timely submit the complaint file to EEOC's Office of Federal Operations.
      5. Relief ordered in a final Commission decision is mandatory and binding on the agency except as provided in 29 C.F.R. § 1614.502. The agency must promptly provide documentation to EEOC substantiating compliance with EEOC ordered relief.
    3. The agency reports to EEOC its program efforts and accomplishments.
      1. The agency timely and accurately submits its No FEAR Act report to EEOC. This requirement applies to agencies and their components with 1,000 or more employees.
      2. The agency timely posts its quarterly No FEAR Act data on its public webpage. 1 I - 1