The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Instructions to Federal Agencies for EEO MD-715


Purpose of Instructions

These Instructions represent the EEOC's guidance and standards to federal agencies for establishing and maintaining effective affirmative programs of equal employment opportunity. These Instructions clarify guidance published in Part C of EEO MD-715, provide federal agencies with additional operational instructions on how to accomplish the requirements of the management directive, and emphasize what federal agencies should do to ensure that personnel actions are made free of any discrimination.

The Instructions are organized as follows:

Section I: The Model EEO Program

Section I focuses on EEO MD-715's definition of the "Essential Elements" for structuring a model EEO program. Attainment of a model EEO program at an agency will provide the infrastructure necessary for the agency to achieve the ultimate goal of a discrimination free work environment, characterized by an atmosphere of inclusion and free and open competition for employment opportunities.

The six elements identified as necessary for a model EEO program are:

Section I details how to achieve each of these elements by fully integrating access, inclusion and equality of opportunity into all aspects of the mission of the agency, and aligning equal opportunity principles with strategic agency plans and objectives.

To usefully measure these integration efforts, agencies will conduct periodic self-assessments of their EEO programs against the six essential elements. EEOC has developed a self-assessment checklist to aid in the self-assessment process. The checklist provides a comprehensive listing of specific management documents and operating systems required to ensure that an agency's overall EEO program is properly established. It is expected that the checklist will serve as an early assessment tool for agencies, helping to increase accountability for any necessary corrective measures. Specific instructions on how to complete the checklist are included in Section I. EEOC is available to provide technical assistance and support in all these efforts.

Finally, Section I requires agencies to certify that their EEO programs are in compliance with the six essential elements or that areas in need of improvement will be addressed in plans they develop. These plans will be monitored by EEOC.

Section II: Barrier Identification and Elimination

Section II of these Instructions contains operational guidance on how to identify barriers which tend to inhibit free and open workplace competition, and how to develop a meaningful plan to eliminate those barriers.

In order to develop a competitive, highly qualified workforce, federal agencies must fully utilize all workers' talents, without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or reprisal for prior EEO activity. (1) (2) This goal cannot be accomplished when barriers to equal employment opportunity persist in an agency's management/personnel policies, procedures or practices.

As Section II of these Instructions explains, the barrier analysis process requires much more of agencies than has been asked in the past. The barrier analysis process cannot be guided solely by examining workforce statistics. While 'snapshot' statistics can be useful as a starting point, statistics alone do not enable an agency to effectively identify workplace barriers.

Workforce statistics can serve to reveal symptoms of barriers to equal opportunity. It must be understood, however, that the statistics themselves are not the barriers. Therefore, when there is an indication, through statistical analyses or other means, that potential barriers may exist in its workplace, an agency is responsible for undertaking a thorough examination of all related policies, procedures and practices to uncover whether an actual barrier to equal employment opportunity exists. It is only after an agency uncovers and understands the actual barrier that appropriate objectives can be implemented to eliminate it.

Lastly, in addition to analyzing workforce statistics, Section II requires agencies to explore a variety of sources to identify potential barriers to equal employment opportunity.

Section III: Reporting Requirements and Line-by-line Instructions

Section III provides basic information on agencies' reporting requirements and responsibilities to EEOC. The section prescribes the standard format for federal agencies to report progress in establishing and maintaining continuous programs of equal employment opportunity.

EEOC FORM 715-01 is introduced with an overview of the parts which make up the form. The overview of the form is followed by detailed, line-by-line, instructions on how to complete the required forms which must be submitted to EEOC on an annual basis.

EEOC FORM 715-01

Immediately following Section III, a blank EEOC FORM 715-01is provided. Placing these Instructions in a loose-leaf, three-ring binder will facilitate removal of the blank EEOC FORM 715-01 from the binder for side-by-side use with the line-by-line instructions in Section III. Finally, there are the Workforce Data Tables and the Guidance for Completing the EEOC FORM 715-01 Workforce Data Tables

EEOC's Review of Agency Plans and Program Evaluation

Pursuant to its authority under Section 717 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as amended, Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Executive Order 12067, EEOC will evaluate an agency's compliance with the laws enforced by the Commission through review of the agency's plans, status reports, direct agency contact, review of government employment data, and through other appropriate means.

As it deems appropriate, EEOC will conduct evaluations of an agency's EEO program effectiveness, both at the agency's headquarters and at its field installations or operating components. In evaluating the fitness of an agency's EEO programs, the Commission will consider the agency's efforts to attain a model EEO program and to identify and eliminate barriers to equal opportunity.

Federal Agencies Covered

Each Department, agency, and instrumentality in the executive branch, including the U.S. Postal Service and the Postal Rate Commission, shall establish and maintain a continuing affirmative program of equal employment opportunity as mandated by Section 717 of Title VII and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act. Such continuing affirmative programs of EEO shall require that all employment decisions of federal employment be made free of discrimination against any group based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin or disability and that there be equal access for all.

All agencies must meet the Congressionally mandated goal of making the federal government a model workplace that is free of discrimination. Once established and implemented, an agency must continuously monitor and assess its EEO Program against Commission standards.

Agency Actions Covered by Section 717

The employment decisions falling within the coverage of Section 717 of Title VII include, but are not limited to, hiring, advancement, discipline and participation in training. See 29 C.F.R. 1607.2(B). Note that while recruitment decisions and practices are covered by Section 717 of Title VII, recruitment may be targeted to attract members of a particular race, sex, or ethnic group. The purpose of Title VII is equal employment opportunity, however, not parity or proportional representation. The objective is to provide the maximum opportunity for all employees to advance and to perform at their highest potential.

For additional information, refer to the following:

Executive Order 13197 -- Government-Wide Accountability for Merit System Principles; 5 U.S.C. 2301, Merit Systems Principles; 29 C.F.R. 1604 at Appendix A to 1604.11, Sexual Harassment; 29 C.F.R. 1605.2, Reasonable Accommodation (religion) without undue hardship; 29 CFR 1606 at Appendix A to 29 C.F.R. 1606.8, Harassment (National Origin); 29 C.F.R. 1607.17, Policy Statement on Affirmative Action; 29 C.F.R. 1608.4, Establishing affirmative action plans; 29 C.F.R. 1608.12, Equal employment opportunity plans adopted pursuant to section 717 of Title VII; 29 C.F.R. 1614.101, General Policy; and, 29 C.F.R. 1614.102, Agency Programs.

Agency Actions Covered by the Rehabilitation Act and Related Statutes

Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act requires affirmative action and nondiscrimination in employment by federal agencies of the executive branch. All agency actions are covered, but Section 501 particularly requires agencies to be proactive in the hiring, placement, and advancement of individuals with disabilities. The standards for determining employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those used in Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act establishes requirements for electronic and information technology developed, maintained, procured, or used by the Federal government. This technology is required to be accessible to people with disabilities. An accessible information technology system is one that can be operated in a variety of ways and does not rely on a single sense or ability of the user. Section 508 applies to copy and facsimile machines and not just computer equipment.

The Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) requires that buildings and facilities that are designed, constructed, or altered with Federal funds, or leased by a Federal agency, comply with Federal standards for physical accessibility. ABA requirements are limited to architectural standards in new and altered buildings and in newly leased facilities.

For further information, refer to the following:

29 U.S.C. 791 (29 C.F.R. 1614.203), Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; 42 U.S.C. 12101 et. seq. (29 C.F.R. Parts 1630, 1602), Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; 42 U.S.C. 4151 et. seq. (41 C.F.R. Subpart 101-19.6), Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, as amended; 42 U.S.C. 4151 et. seq. (; EEOC Policy Guidance on Executive Order 13164: Establishing Procedures to Facilitate the Provision of Reasonable Accommodation; EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act; EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); EEOC Enforcement Guidance on the Americans with Disabilities Act and Psychiatric Disabilities; Executive Order 13163: Increasing the Opportunity for Individuals with Disabilities to be Employed in the Federal Government, and, Executive Order 13078 -- Increasing Employment of Adults with Disabilities.

Agency EEO Plan

As part of the affirmative employment plan it prepares, each agency should have an up-to-date time-line of activities to effectuate its program of equal employment opportunity. The plan should be responsive and tailored to resolve any barriers or problems detected.

Agencies should analyze appropriate data on the employment of federal workers in their workforces against appropriate and relevant civilian labor force availability data available through the Census 2000 EEO Data Tool. See Section II, page 5. Each agency is responsible for ensuring that it maintains the data required for EEO analysis as specified at 29 C.F.R. 1614.601 and that its records are timely, accurate, and complete.

The availability data, along with the agency's incumbency data, must be analyzed to identify problem areas and unnecessary barriers that disadvantage or exclude any group. Where barriers to equal opportunity are detected or discrimination is evident, agencies are expected to eliminate the barriers found or, if possible, lessen their impact if they are job-related and consistent with business necessity. To eliminate barriers, appropriate objectives need to be developed with accompanying steps, as currently required under Section 717 of Title VII and EEOC regulations.

Agency EEO Plan Coverage

Title VII and the Rehabilitation Act apply to all employees and applicants of covered agencies. The law provides protection for all persons to the extent the agency is covered. Agencies should include in each workforce profile all permanent employees -- that is, any member of the permanent workforce serving under either a competitive or excepted appointment, including permanent employees who work full-time, part-time, or intermittent work schedules. For these purposes, "permanent employees" include all employees serving under permanent accession codes. [Some examples of permanent accession codes include: 100; 101; 107; 112; 120; 124; 130; 140; 141; 170; 190; 500; 501; 540; 541; and 570.]

Agencies should track separately the representation of each EEO group in temporary jobs at each grade level, as well as those in non-appropriated fund positions. For these purposes, temporary workers are those who have been employed under temporary appointing authorities at any time during the fiscal year being analyzed. [Temporary (Not To Exceed) accession codes include 108; 115; 117; and 171]

Each agency must have an agency-wide plan covering all of its operating components and field installations. Agency-wide plans shall include instructions assigning specific responsibilities to be accomplished by the agency's various operating components and field installations to promote equal employment opportunity for all workers.

Consistent with Section 717 and the Rehabilitation Act, EEOC requires certain agency components to develop separate plans in accordance with program guidance and/or instructions. However, EEOC requires only that the second level reporting components file a copy with the EEOC. See Section III, page 4.

Annual Statement of Establishment of Continuing EEO Programs

Each agency must certify to EEOC by January 31st following the end of the fiscal year that is being reported that it has a continuing affirmative employment program that is consistent with the requirements set forth in EEO-MD-715. See Section III, Reporting Requirements and Line-By-Line Instructions, page 3.

State of the Agency Report

Following the submission of the agency's report to EEOC, there should be a "State of the Agency" briefing to the head of the agency by the EEO Director/Officer. This briefing should also coincide with the reaffirmation and re-issuing of the EEO policy by the head of the agency. The briefing should thoroughly cover all components of the EEOC FORM 715-01, including an assessment of the performance of the agency 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 including any barriers it identified and/or eliminated or reduced the impact of. Pertinent information from workplace data tables may be presented as well.

Technical Assistance and Support

As agencies review these Instructions and embark on the required tasks, EEOC is available to provide technical assistance and support. Inquiries and correspondence concerning EEO MD-715 and these Instructions should be directed to EEOC at the following address:

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Office of Federal Operations
P.O. Box 77960
Washington, DC 20013

Telephone: (202) 663-4599
Facsimile: (202) 663-4388

1. It should be noted that federal employees and applicants for employment are also protected from discrimination by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

2. Additionally, federal applicants and employees are protected from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. For further information on the protections provided, please consult Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, and Executive Order 11478 (1969), as amended by Executive Order 13087 (1998). Federal applicants and employees suspecting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation should contact the Office of Special Counsel (

This page was last modified on December 12, 2008.

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