Federal Exchange on Employment & Disability (FEED) Meeting
November 2, 2017
10:00 a.m. – Noon
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- Welcome and Introductions
Dexter Brooks, Director of Federal Sector Programs for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Office of Federal Operations, welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked participants for coming. He also thanked FEED’s managing partners — EEOC, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) — and then introduced EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum, who provided welcoming remarks.
Commissioner Feldblum began by discussing the reasons for amending the Section 501 statue to direct federal agencies to develop affirmative action plans for recruitment, advancement and retention of people with disabilities in the Federal Government. She noted that a regulation is the strongest document that a federal agency can issue related to policy, and that “what is measured is what matters.” She stated that whether the measures in the regulation are achieved will depend largely on the work FEED members are doing and the support they receive from their agency’s leadership, as well as the technical assistance and support provided to them by FEED’s managing partners. She mentioned that quarterly meetings are just one aspect of the support the managing partners provide to FEED members.
Commissioner Feldblum stated that one reason for the new Section 501 regulation is to help gain the support of federal agency leadership, so that the agencies can successfully achieve the measures outlined in the regulation, specifically that 12 percent of each agency’s workforce, above and below the GS-11 level, will be self-identified people with disabilities, using the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) definition of “disability,” and 2 percent of the agency’s workforce will be people with targeted disabilities. She stated that it does not matter whether the employees self-identify by using the SF-256 form, by coming in as a Schedule A appointment or by requesting a reasonable accommodation.
She continued that she believes every federal agency can achieve the 12 percent goal because a minimum of 25 percent of the U.S. population has a disability using the ADA definition, which includes serious medical conditions like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, depression and anxiety disorders. She said that the main thing an agency needs to do to meet the 12 percent goal is to create an atmosphere in which job candidates and employees with disability feel comfortable self-identifying as a person with a disability.
She stated that the reason for asking people to self-identify through SF-256 is so federal employees understand that if they have certain medical conditions, they can choose to identify as a person with a disability. However, they do not have to state which condition they have – they can simply look at the list of conditions that is provided to them and decide to identify as a person with a disability. Commissioner Feldblum said that when FEED members ask for support from their agency’s leadership to meet this goal, what they are really asking for is the authority to conduct a survey of their existing workforce to clearly communicate that it is safe to self-identify. She added that part of the reason to do the survey is to help employees understand that if they self-identify as a person with a disability, then they can ask for reasonable accommodations if they need them to do their job well or to stay on the job.
Commissioner Feldblum stated that the 2 percent goal for people with targeted disabilities will be harder to achieve, because those are the people who may have the most difficult time getting a foot in the door for a first job or receiving promotions. She said that this group will likely need reasonable accommodations, and if they aren’t able to get them, they may not receive promotions or be able to stay on the job. She emphasized that agency leadership needs to understand what the 2 percent goal means, and what is meant by targeted disabilities.
She continued that the measurement piece is the most important part of the new Section 501 regulation, and it’s what really needs to be communicated to agency leadership. The rest of the regulation provides agencies with activities and measures for meeting those goals, such as having an affirmative action plan that explains how the agency will make connections with state and local organizations such as centers for independent living and disability rights organizations, and with federal programs such as the Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work program. She said that if agencies make strong connections with these organizations, they will have a chance at meeting the 2 percent goal.
Commissioner Feldblum then discussed the importance of educating hiring managers about reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, and about the options agencies have when funding them. She mentioned that a centralized fund is one way agencies can pay for reasonable accommodations, but not the only way. She stated that an employee with a disability doesn’t have to use the words “reasonable accommodation” to be eligible to receive one, and it’s important that agency staff understand this and be trained about what a reasonable accommodation request is and how to engage in the process. She said if there is training and sufficient staffing to respond to reasonable accommodation requests, then agencies will be able to retain the employees with disabilities they have hired. In addition, if agencies make sure their employees with disabilities have the support to do their job well so they can be promoted, they will be able to reach that 2 percent goal above GS-11.
She concluded her remarks by saying that the presenters will be discussing the Section 501 measurements in more detail, and that if these measurements are achieved across the Federal Government, it will be a “game changer” for people with targeted disabilities, given the number of people that could be impacted who are either not working or who are underemployed. She stated that meeting these measures will take the action, engagement and passion of FEED members, as well as the support of agency leadership, and assistance from FEED’s managing partners. She stated that she will be supporting EEOC’s efforts to help all federal agencies meet these hiring, retention and advancement goals.
Dexter Brooks then introduced Lori Grant.
- Updates to MD-715
Lori Grant, Assistant Director for the Agency Oversight Division at EEOC, provided an overview of recent revisions to MD-715, which is the vehicle EEOC uses to collect information from federal agencies about their efforts to meet affirmative action obligations under Section 501. Lori said that EEOC has made these changes to the MD-715 instructions and the form in order to help federal agencies develop their affirmative action plans and meet the measurements in the Section 501 regulation.
She began by discussing the changes to Part G that are the result of the updated Section 501 regulation, MD-110 and guidance that was previously issued by EEOC. She stated that EEOC’s goal for the changes to Part G is to include citations for each question to provide agencies with information regarding what data they should be providing and why it’s important.
Lori continued that EEOC has also restructured Part I to include more information for agencies about how to conduct barrier analysis. In addition, the agency has modified the workforce data tables to include information made necessary by the revised regulation and to make it easier for agencies to conduct barrier analysis. This information has been consolidated in tables rather than spread across the document, and benchmarks have been provided for each table.
She said that to avoid putting an additional burden on agencies, EEOC decided that the MD-715 would be used to develop agencies’ affirmative action plans. She clarified that once agencies certify their MD-715 report in FedSEP, the system will use data from Part G and Part J to generate the affirmative action plan, which agencies will have a chance to review before they certify. She stated that if agencies need to make changes to the affirmative action plan, it will have to be done through the part data. Once agencies certify the MD-715 report, the affirmative action plan will be generated in the report page in FedSEP and the plan will be final. She stated that after that point, the only way to make changes to the plan will be to decertify the report.
Lori then took a question from the audience.
- “Does the affirmative action plan hold for the entire year?”
- Lori stated that the affirmative action plan will be done on a yearly basis. She noted that EEOC heard from many agencies, particularly larger cabinet level agencies, that the January 31st deadline was problematic because they will need to consolidate information. She stated that because of this, EEOC has decided to change the filing deadline date to February 28th of every year to give the agencies an extra month to develop their department-wide reports.
She continued by saying that EEOC will be implementing the revised instructions in two phases – the first phase will be for the 2017 report, the data that is due February 28, 2018. For this report, the only changes EEOC is making are to Part J, which has been substantially rewritten, and the generation of the affirmative action plans, as previously mentioned. She stated that for the first year, EEOC will be using Part G questions that relate to the disability program. The other change EEOC has made to MD-715 is that four new targeted disabilities have been added to the workforce data tables, based on the new SF-256.
Lori stated that for the second phase, which will be for the 2018 data that’s due in February 2019, EEOC will be rolling out the rest of the revised part forms. Part J will stay the same, except for the addition of a table to track training data. This won’t be rolled out until next year because EEOC wants agencies to have time to develop the processes to collect that data. In addition, EEOC will be rolling out new A and B tables, and the affirmative action plan will start incorporating the Part H plans that deal with correcting program deficiencies.
She mentioned that changes to reporting requirements based on agency size are as follows:
- Agencies with 500 or more people in their permanent workforce must submit all data tables and part forms.
- Agencies between 200 and 499 employees must submit all of the part forms, but only tables 1-5.
- Agencies under 200 employees must submit Parts A-G, plus J, in order to develop the affirmative action plan, and tables 1-5.
- A subcomponent of 1,000 or more employees must submit Parts A through J, and tables 1-9 if the cabinet agency wants the subcomponent to submit them (these are the same requirements as in previous years).
Lori then took several questions from the audience.
- “How should National Guard offices submit their part data and their data tables?”
- Lori replied that in the past, National Guard offices have submitted reports based on size, and because they’re technically a subcomponent, they can continue to do so. She stated that the issue is that the National Guard Bureau does not submit a report to EEOC, so all of the individual offices have submitted reports in the past, not just the ones with 1,000 or more employees. Dexter Brooks said that EEOC will work with individual agencies to address questions like this and provide technical assistance if necessary.
- “For the report that’s due in 2018, will Part G be the new form or the current form?”
- Lori replied that for the report due in 2018, EEOC will be using the current Part G with the disability-related questions. For the reporting cycle that’s due in 2019, EEOC will be using the updated Part G questions.
- “In past reporting cycles, agencies would do all parts and tables 1-14. For this reporting cycle, is it changing to only tables 1-9?”
- Lori replied that the tables are not changing for the report due in 2018, so the tables will be the same – meaning agencies should complete tables 1-14, like they have in previous years. She reiterated that the only part change for the report due in 2018 is Part J. For the data tables, the only change will be the new targeted disability columns in the B tables.
- “Does the extension of the submission date for MD-715 report (to February 28th) impact the implementation date for the new regulation, which states agencies must be in compliance by January 3, 2018?”
- Dexter replied that EEOC does expect agencies to have the revised reasonable accommodation procedures and personal assistance service procedures ready by January, but that data related to the affirmative action plan won’t be due until February 28th. He said that EEOC will not tell agencies that they are noncompliant if they are meeting the new time frames.
Lori then provided an overview of the changes to the part forms that will take effect for the report due in February 2019.
- Part A: No changes, except renaming the field previously called “CPDF Code” to “Agency Code”
- Part B: Changes will be made to a few fields that collect workforce data. The form will no longer capture non-appropriated workforce data, so regardless of how agencies are appropriated, they will just need to provide data regarding the number of permanent and temporary employees the agency has.
- Part C: Will be separated into two sections. C1 will capture the Head of the Agency and the Head of the Agency Designee, but only the Head of the Agency is required (Head of the Agency Designee is optional). In Part C2, additional rows for EEO staff will be added, but the only required field will be the EEO Director. The new fields will be for the phone number and email address for each staff person listed.
- Part D: D1 remains virtually the same for the subcomponents (the only change is renaming the CPDF Code the Agency Code). For Part D2, mandatory and optional supporting documents have been separated. Currently agencies are required to submit the EEO policy statement and organizational chart. EEOC has added the agencies’ overall strategic plan, anti-harassment policy, reasonable accommodation procedures, personal assistance services procedures (if separate from reasonable accommodation procedures) and ADR procedures as mandatory documents. The rest of the documents in this section will be optional.
- Part E (Executive Summary): Due to feedback EEOC received from larger agencies, cabinet agencies and agencies with 200 or more employees will only have to submit Part E1 (the mission of the agency). Agencies with less than 200 employees will have to complete all of the sections of the executive summary. The goal of this change is to avoid duplication of information provided in Parts H and I.
- Part F: There will be no changes in how agencies will certify their reports.
- Part G: All agencies will be required to submit this part of the report. New questions will be added to include the disability-related requirements and the new regulations. If an agency replies “No” to a question in Part G, then they will have to create the plan to correct the deficiency, either in Part E or in Part H (depending on agency size).
- Part H (plan to remove program deficiencies): Only agencies with 200 or more employees will be required to submit this part form. New information will also be added regarding certification of the performance standards, if the responsible official has the plan in their performance plan, and if planned activities have sufficient funding and staffing. New dates for modified and completion dates for the planned activities will be added as well.
- Part I: All agencies with 200 or more employees will be required to submit this part form. However, disability will no longer be captured in Part I. The barriers involving disability will be moved to Part J. Links to triggers that involve the data tables, if applicable, will be included in Part I. EEO groups will be included in a dropdown menu or bubbles that agencies can check. Similar to Part H, questions regarding sufficient funding, staffing and performance standard requirements will be included. Agencies will also be asked to provide a “Yes/No” response related to the status of their barrier analysis process.
- Part J: All agencies will be required to submit this part form, and all questions in this part will require a response. The purpose of Part J is to assist agencies in meeting the requirements of the new regulations. It will also be the main part of the affirmative action plan. It’s important to note that EEOC is stressing meaningful progress in this form part.
Lori then took a question from the audience.
- “The questions in Part J seem very backwards focused, looking at what an agency has already done, and the idea of an affirmative action plan seems to be forward focused. Should agencies be including language in the response to these questions about what they are going to do?”
- Lori replied that the expectation for agencies is that they will provide information concerning what they’ve done and what they intend to do with respect to each topic. She stated that many of the “Yes/No” questions in Part J are designed to help agencies identify triggers in their workforce, and if they do identify the trigger, then it would flow into the barrier analysis plan that they can create at the end of Part J. She stated that agencies will have the ability to create multiple plans, depending on what the trigger is, at all stages of the employee lifecycle. She reiterated that MD-715 data will be used to created affirmative action plans, and the sources of that information will be Parts G and J for the upcoming year and Parts H and J in subsequent years. Lori then reminded agencies that they need to post their affirmative action plan on their public website, and that EEOC will be providing feedback on those plans.
She then transitioned to the changes being made to the report’s data tables, which for the report due in 2018 will remain the same, but for 2019, will be consolidated from 14 tables to nine. She clarified that this change does not mean that EEOC will be collecting less data. The changes are being made to improve the use of the data tables so that they can assist in the barrier analysis process.
Other changes to data tables include:
- Table 1: Removal of non-appropriated data, and addition of Schedule A data in Table B1, which is required.
- Table 3: Removal of the “other officials and managers” category, because those aren’t part of the supervisory chain. EEOC will also change the definition of the management levels to reflect their levels of responsibility, and not their actual grade level. EEOC is currently working with OPM to come up with a way to do that, but for report due in 2018, agencies should continue to use the grade levels.
- Table 4: Addition of “Total Senior Pay” and incorporation of the wage grade data as an alternate pay plan (see Table 5).
- Table 5: Removal of wage grade data. Will be included as alternate pay plan information in Table 4, since not every agency has wage grade data. This change will allow EEOC to compare agencies throughout the government regardless of their pay plans.
- Table 6: Deals with major occupations and combines the applicant flow data with the major occupations with the grade levels for each occupation.
- Table 7 (Senior Grade Level table): Addition of senior grade levels with the applicant flow data, both internal and external. Previously, only data on internal new hires was collected.
- Table 8: Addition of a new management data table with the grade levels for each of the management levels within the agency. This will be combined with external and internal applicant flow data, as well as career development data.
- Table 9 (awards table): Expansion of categories to allow agencies to identify whether they had awards greater than 500 in more detail.
- Table 10 (noncompetitive promotions): This table will be eliminated, but agencies will be required to provide the grade levels of each of the major occupations and then the management levels in other tables, so that EEOC can see how employees are progressing through the workforce from top to bottom. This information will help agencies conduct barrier analysis.
Lori then took questions from the audience.
- “Are agencies allowed to modify the auto-generated affirmative action plan?”
- Lori replied that agencies will not be able to modify the affirmative action plan. The only way to modify the plan would be to change the data submitted in Parts G and J. She encouraged meeting participants who had concerns about elements of the affirmative action plan to send them to her via email as soon as possible, since EEOC has a very short window to make revisions to Parts G and J before the form is finalized.
- “What about agencies that thought that they were drafting their own affirmative action plans, and were going to incorporate things like their PAS policy and Section 508 notification directly into the affirmative action plan? Now those agencies are having to change direction. Has there been any consideration of pushing back that timeline because this was not the practice outlined in the Final Rule publication?”
- Lori reiterated that the data collection for the affirmative action plan will be done through MD-715 reporting. She suggested that agencies can include additional information as supporting document for the MD-715 report as attachments or as an appendix to the document they receive from the MD-715 generated affirmative action plan.
Dexter agreed with Lori, and said that one of EEOC’s main reasons for issuing the new regulation was to consolidate existing guidance and reporting requirements. He said that when EEOC issued the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), they asked agencies for their feedback on how the reporting should work, and if there should be a separate affirmative plan or if the plan should be integrated into an existing reporting mechanism. He said the comments they received from agencies indicated that they wanted to integrate the report and the affirmative action plan, so they would not have to do multiple reports. Dexter stated that this information is included in the summary of the regulation, as well as in all of the technical assistance that EEOC has been providing over the past year. He continued that if an agency has done something unique that they believe is a value added for the agency, that EEOC will work with them to include it as a supplemental document that will be attached to the affirmative action plan generated by MD-715 reporting.
- “Are agencies using the current A Tables and the new B Tables for reporting due in 2018?”
- Lori said for the report due in February 2018, EEOC will be using the same tables they used last year. For 2019, the new data tables will be used. She reiterated that the only change to the tables for the report due in 2018 is the new targeted disability columns.
- “Most reports are done in Word. After vetting, agencies have to cut and paste parts of the report into FedSEP. Is there a way the Word documents can be converted to online Parts A-D or other parts in the report, rather than having to cut and paste everything?”
- Lori agreed that this was a good idea, but said unfortunately EEOC’s system was not currently capable of doing this. She said it would be helpful to include a way to do XML conversion with the data tables, but that they currently don’t have the technology to convert the Word document into HTML format in a way that can be uploaded to their system. However, she said she would talk with EEOC’s information technology office about implementing something like this in the future.
Q: “Regarding the data tables, last year there was a document that had macros and data checks. There is no current table like that that has the new targeted disability form on FedSEP. There’s a new B Table, but there’s no new A Table, so it’s unclear which tables to use.”
- Anupa said that on the FedSEP guidance page, there are new B Tables for FY17 in an Excel spreadsheet, but that’s not the tool to use to upload the data into FedSEP. She said the template is currently being modified and will be posted when it’s available for agencies to use. EEOC will send out emails to let agencies know when it’s available.
Lori said that the old form will have the new categories, but won’t have the new data because that isn’t being rolled out until next year. She reiterated that the template being used for the report due in 2018 will look exactly like the template used for the previous year, but with the addition of four new columns for the targeted disabilities.
- “Regarding the addition of benchmarks to all the data tables, is that for FY17 or FY18?”
- Lori replied that the addition of benchmarks to data tables will be for the FY18 report, not for the FY17 report due in February 2018.
- “For federal agencies that have a Part I that’s a multiyear plan for individuals with disabilities, and has lower than expected participation, is EEOC expecting that Part I to transition into the new Part J this year?”
- Lori replied that yes, EEOC would expect this and that the agency would need to copy and paste or type in the information into Part J, as well as complete the existing plan in Part I. Dexter stated that Part J forms have been disabled so that agencies can’t enter Part J data yet, but EEOC is expecting to have that function back up by the end of December, or early January at the latest. He clarified that EEOC will still approve extensions, and that Lori’s PowerPoint presentation will be added to EEOC’s guidance page and emailed to all meeting participants.
- “Can agencies go into the system and start working on the reports now?”
- Lori said this was not possible at the current time because EEOC had to shut down the entire system to do the updates. Dexter clarified that for the reports agencies must submit by February 28, 2018, they will be using the traditional MD-715 parts, except for the revised Part J and modifications to the tables to let agencies capture the measurement goals. The major revisions to the part forms and the tables will be for the next reporting cycle (FY18 data).
Lori concluded her presentation by saying that EEOC had updated the FedSEP guidance page, and uploaded the root cause analysis tool, which is the first module, and that they will be rolling out additional modules in the future. She said that the first module deals with recruitment and is intended to help agencies conduct analysis, and that it’s optional for agencies to use. She mentioned that she is hopeful that in the next fiscal year, EEOC will include new hires and promotions in that tool, which currently only covers recruitment. She stated that EEOC has also uploaded a list of innovative practices that they received from agencies during their feedback and technical assistance visits over the past year.
Lori then introduced EEOC’s AOD team and asked the members of the team in the room to stand up and identify themselves. She said agencies will find their names in FedSEP, and that agencies are assigned staff members to be their primary contact from EEOC.
- Networking Break
Meeting participants then took a quick networking break during which they were encouraged to discuss with one another how their agency is planning to ensure that people with disabilities and people with targeted disabilities have sufficient opportunities for advancement.
- Developing Agency Affirmative Action Plans
Anupa Iyer, Policy Advisor for EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations, gave a presentation on how MD-715 will be used to generate agency affirmative action plans. She stated that FedSEP will utilize Parts G and J to compile the plan. She mentioned that blank copies of the affirmative plan were distributed at the meeting, and would also be available on FedSEP, and that they show how Part G will be incorporated. She stated that her presentation will be focused on Parts J and G, and answering questions about how these parts will generate affirmative action plans.
She stated that the first part of the plan looks at an agency’s efforts to reach regulatory goals — the workforce goals for people with disabilities and people with targeted disabilities – as well as how the agency is communicating to its leadership about the goals. She continued that each subsequent section of the plan has questions that are narrative followed by data analysis, and based on that, if triggers are identified, agencies will generate a version of Part I. She recapped that this part of the plan examines what an agency has done, where it is in regard to meeting regulatory goals and how it can make improvements the following year.
She mentioned that the first narrative question in this part is, “Describe how the agency has communicated the numerical goals to the hiring managers and recruiters” and this question provides an opportunity to highlight the work the agency has been doing in this area. She said that this question ties back to what Commissioner Feldblum said in her welcoming remarks regarding the importance of support from agency leadership. She continued that the only way that managers and supervisors are going to know about the Federal Government’s commitment to being a model employer is if leadership at the agency spreads the message, and that’s what the question is asking agencies to describe.
She continued that Section 2 looks at how well staffed agencies are, and if they have the resources and support they need to meet their goals. She said there is a question that asks, “Has the agency designated sufficient qualified personnel to implement its disability program during the reporting period?” and requires a “Yes/No” response. If the agency answers “No,” then it will need to describe the agency’s plan to improve the staffing for the upcoming year. She clarified that EEOC is really looking for agencies to be honest and answer “No” if they don’t have enough staffing, because staffing issues can be a barrier to being a model employer.
She said that there is the tendency in the reports for agencies to say they are complying, when that may not be the case because they don’t have the necessary resources or support. EEOC is trying to provide assistance regarding how the Federal Government can become a model employer and they want to avoid the report becoming a “check the box” type of exercise since the goal of the report is to ensure equal opportunity across the board in the government.
She continued that Section 2A looks at how well staffed an agency is and if the staff is well qualified. She said the table included in the plan includes a list of tasks that have been identified in the regulation as key components of staffing an agency’s disability program. This part of the report asks agencies to identify for each task how many staff members they have assigned to it and who is the responsible official. She said that the reason for this is that some of the information that is available publicly includes out-of-date contact information for the disability program manager and other key staff, and EEOC wants to ensure this information is updated so people can ask questions, get reasonable accommodations, etc.
She said that Section B2 asks if the agency has funding and support to implement their disability program and clarified that this is an opportunity for an agency to acknowledge that they need more assistance and that is why they aren’t able to meet their goals.
Anupa then took questions from the audience.
- “Can you explain the distinction between the reasonable accommodations program manager and the disability program manager? I know different agencies do it differently, but they really serve really functions, and if agencies are confusing the two, they won’t get the duties right.”
- Dexter replied that since agencies may be using different titles for the staff members responsible for these roles, the form has the job duties broken down by task, rather than job title. He provided the example of the person at the agency responsible for processing reasonable accommodation requests, and said whatever their job title, the agency would enter the total number of people who are tasked with that job into the form, whether it’s tasked to one main person and two collateral people at headquarters, or several people in the field who do this task as collateral duty. He clarified that the “responsible official” is the person who oversees the reasonable accommodation program.
- “Sometimes some of these duties are handled by the HR staffing specialist. How do agencies count the multiple HR staffing specialists?”
- Anupa replied that throughout Section 2 (the model disability program), all the questions about staffing, funding and training on the chart should be answered looking across the agency at the staff members responsible for these tasks. She provided the example of the staff member responsible for processing applications from people with disabilities and people with targeted disabilities. She said for a small agency, it may be one full-time person and one collateral duty person, and the responsible official would be the Chief Human Capital Officer, because they are the ones who are the managers for that entire division. She said if agencies have concerns that they will have to list a lot of people or they want to explain in more detail how these tasks are assigned, this can be done in the previous questions that ask if there is sufficient staffing, and whether the individuals involved in these tasks have received training. She reiterated that agencies should try to make sure they are capturing all the staff at the agency responsible for these tasks.
- “Some agencies use third parties, like a headquarters mixture with a subcomponent. How should that information be captured?”
- Anupa clarified that the chart in the report is really looking at the full-time staff (FTEs) at the agency. She said there is another question that asks how the agency is staffing their disability program, and that might be where agencies explain if they are working with a vendor or have a different way of staffing other than FTEs.
Anupa continued her presentation by discussing Section 3, which examines program deficiencies. She said that EEOC is planning to send the list of disability related questions that will be in Part G for FY17 as a Word document, and there will be a separate document for the FY18 questions. She then showed a slide with an example of how the program deficiency section of the affirmative action plan would look. Agencies would include the number on the form along with comments about whether it’s a deficiency, and what the agency is doing to address the deficiency would be included in a separate box.
Anupa then explained that Section 4, the plan to recruit and hire individuals with disabilities, is broken into three subparts that align with previous questions about what the agency’s plan is, how it is being implemented and if the agency is making progress. She showed a slide of a circle chart with the subsection of Parts A and B.
She continued that Section 4 begins with a question asking about agency recruitment programs that work to identify applicants with disabilities, and ways the agency is working to build relationships with disability employment organizations to recruit and hire people with disabilities. She said that recruitment efforts such as promoting the use of Schedule A or veterans hiring authorities may not be effective if hiring managers aren’t comfortable using these hiring authorities, so this might be a barrier an agency faces. She added that EEOC also wants to know what agencies are doing once they get applications from job candidates with disabilities – how is the agency processing them, and do they go to hiring managers? Section 4 also includes a question about whether hiring managers and supervisors are receiving training about all available hiring options, such as Schedule A and other hiring authorities.
Anupa then showed a slide detailing Section 4A.2, which asks agencies to describe how they use hiring authorities to recruit people with disabilities and people with targeted disabilities. She clarified that this included not just Schedule A, but any other hiring authority that would help to hire people with disabilities. She said in this section, agencies should provide details such as if they have a website with information about these hiring authorities, if they host or attend hiring fairs for veterans and other efforts the agency is undertaking to meet their hiring goals.
She continued that the report asks a series of questions to try to gauge if an agency’s recruiting efforts are working, and if progress is being made. She provided some examples of how agencies can determine if their recruiting efforts are not effective. One example was if an agency attends job fairs where they receive a lot of resumes, but doesn’t end up hiring any of the candidates, then that agency might want to consider attending different job fairs or otherwise revising their recruitment plan. She said that the questions in this section provide a way to use data to support changing direction if what an agency is doing isn’t effective.
She stated that the next section walks agencies through how to determine if there are triggers. One question asks about new hires for mission critical occupations, because these positions are a way that employees can move up the career ladder. She said if agencies want to ensure that they are meeting the 12 and 2 percent goals at the higher grades, they need to make sure they are hiring employees with disabilities for mission critical positions.
She then moved on to advancement, which she said is an area where EEOC has made the biggest changes, because they want to ensure that people with disabilities are advancing within federal agencies. She reiterated that advancement is a critical focus for EEOC, which is why she asked that meeting participants discuss the question regarding what agencies are doing to advance people with disabilities and targeted disabilities during the networking break. She stated that the first part of this section asks what agencies are currently doing and what they are thinking about doing, including in relation to career development opportunities. She said EEOC will use this information to identify if there are triggers, and if people with disabilities and targeted disabilities are receiving opportunities for training. If the report shows that they aren’t, agencies may want to analyze why not in Part 5.
She continued that the report also includes a series of questions on awards, which include benchmarks for inclusion rates and questions about promotional opportunities, both amongst and within the qualified internal applicants.
She continued on to Section 6, which is the plan to improve retention. She said that EEOC often hears that employees with disabilities are leaving federal service at higher rates than people without disabilities, and agencies have questions about why this is happening. She stated that this section has questions about agency separation data, including the percentage of people with disabilities and targeted disabilities who are leaving the agency, and whether the separation is voluntary or involuntary. Anupa said if the rate of separations of people with disabilities at the agency greatly exceeds that of people without disabilities, that could be an indicator that there might be barriers that the agency needs to address.
Anupa said that the next section included questions asking agencies to describe the accessibility of their technologies and facilities, and that under the regulation, agencies must provide notice about who the point of contact is for complaints under Section 508 of the Rehab Act and the Architectural Barriers Act. She said this was added in response to EEO offices getting 508 complaints about accessibility issues, which is not something they are tasked with addressing. She mentioned that this section also includes a question about the effectiveness of the agency’s reasonable accommodation program. She said agencies should be submitting their reasonable accommodations procedures and forms via email to raprocedures@EEOC.gov, and that EEOC will review those procedures prior to January 3, 2018 to ensure they are up-to-date.
She continued that the report also asks questions about agency harassment complaint data and reasonable accommodation complaint data. She then showed an example of a sample Part I to demonstrate what the barrier analysis process will look like. She concluded her presentation by saying that anyone with questions about these changes should feel free to reach out to her.
Dexter stated that EEOC will be doing more detailed presentations for MD-715 preparers, including webinars and focused discussions, in the coming months.
- FEED Updates
Brett Sheats, National Project Director for the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN), provided brief updates about FEED. He encouraged participants to visit the EARN website (www.askearn.org), which includes a page with FEED information where people can sign up to join the group. He asked meeting participants who have not signed up for FEED to please do so they can receive updates about meeting dates and other important information. He said meeting participants would be sent a thank you email after the meeting with all of the PowerPoints presentations and handouts from the meeting.
He added that a few weeks after the meeting, meeting notes will also be sent out and in the email will be a link to a survey about the development of a listserv so FEED members can communicate with one another and share resources. He asked all FEED members to take that survey in order to provide feedback about the functionalities they would like the listserv to include. He then introduced Akinyemi Banjo.
- Closing Remarks
Akinyemi Banjo, Policy Advisor for the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, provided closing remarks. He thanked everyone for attending and all of the meeting presenters. He encouraged FEED members to share the best practices they are using to help make the Federal Government a model employer of people with disabilities, such as programs they have implemented in their agencies that are generating positive results. He said that FEED allows members to have the opportunity to communicate with their peers at other agencies, bounce ideas off each other, discuss questions they have or challenges they face related to federal employment of people with disabilities. He concluded by saying that the next FEED meeting will take place after the New Year, likely in February of 2018, so FEED members should keep their eyes out for an email with more details in the next few months.
Dexter concluded the meeting by thanking Akinyemi for creating the interagency workgroup that manages FEED. He stated that FEED was created to be a community of practice, not just a way to push out information. He said the goal for the group is for it to be truly interactive and to highlight the innovative work being done within the FEED community, not just the work of policymakers at EEOC, OPM and ODEP. He encouraged FEED participants to share with the group novel approaches their agencies are using, and ideas on how FEED can help meet the needs of its members. He thanked everyone for participating, and reminded agencies to send EEOC their reasonable accommodation and personal assistance services plans.