July 20, 2021

On June 25, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13985 (Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government) to strengthen the Federal workforce by promoting diversity, equality, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA). The E.O. is based on a growing body of evidence which demonstrates that diverse, equitable, and accessible workplaces yield higher performance.

This E.O. builds upon and supports three previous E.O.s that the Biden administration issued earlier in the year:

  • E.O. 13573 (Establishing a Coordinated Government-Wide Initiative to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce),
  • E.O. 13988 (Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation), and
  • E.O. 14020 (Establishment of The White House Gender Policy Council).

The E.O. directs various Federal employees and agencies to develop plans to promote DEIA.

“The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Strategic Plan” (DEIA Plan)

The Director of OPM and Deputy Director of OMB will establish a government-wide “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Strategic Plan” (DEIA Plan) within 150 days. Additionally, within 100 days they will prepare a preliminary assessment of the current state of DEIA in Federal Agency human resources practices and workforce composition.

The DEIA Plan will:

  • Define standards of success for DEIA in the public and private sectors,
  • Identify strategies to advance DEIA and eliminate barriers to equity in Federal workforce function,
  • Include a comprehensive framework to address workplace harassment, and
  • Promote a data-driven approach to increase transparency and accountability.

The DEIA Plan will establish an updated system for agencies to report on progress in implementing the plan and will consolidate existing Federal reporting. The head of each agency will be responsible for implementing the DEIA Plan within their respective agencies. The head of each agency will take a data-driven approach to implement the DEIA Plan while protecting the privacy of employees and safeguarding their personally identifiable information and protected health information.

Promoting Federal Paid Internships

The Director of OPM and Deputy Director of OMB will issue guidance to Federal Agencies on how to increase the availability of paid Federal internships and reduce the practice of hiring unpaid interns. The guidance will help ensure that internships serve as a supplement to and not substitute for the competitive hiring process. Additionally, agencies will improve their outreach to and recruitment of individuals from underserved communities for internship positions.

Federal Partnership Initiative

The Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Director of OPM, and Deputy Director of OMB will coordinate a Government-wide initiative to facilitate recruitment for Federal employment opportunities for individuals who are members of underserved communities. The initiative will take steps to increase diversity in the Federal employment pipeline and strengthen partnerships with: Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including Historically Black Graduate Institutions; Hispanic-Serving Institutions; Tribal Colleges and Universities; Native American-serving, nontribal institutions; Asian American and Pacific Islander-serving institutions; Tribally controlled colleges and universities; Alaska Native-serving and Native Hawaiian-serving institutions; Predominantly Black Institutions; women’s colleges and universities; State vocational rehabilitation agencies that serve individuals with disabilities; disability services offices at institutions of higher education; organizations dedicated to serving veterans; public and non-profit private universities serving a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students or first-generation college or graduate students; community colleges and technical schools; and community-based organizations that are dedicated to serving and working with underserved communities, including return-to-work programs, programs that provide training and support for older adults seeking employment, programs serving formerly incarcerated individuals, centers for independent living, disability rights organizations, and organizations dedicated to serving LGBTQ+ individuals.

Professional Development

The head of each agency will implement policies that will use demographic data to identify ways to improve outreach and recruitment for professional development programs for members of underserved communities. The head of each agency will also address any barriers to access to or participation in such programs faced by members of underserved communities.

DEIA Training

The head of each agency will increase the availability and use of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility training programs within the Federal Government. The training programs will teach about systemic and institutional racism and bias against underserved communities. The training will build skillsets to promote respectful and inclusive workplaces and eliminate workplace harassment.

Advancing Equity for Employees with Disabilities

The E.O establishes that the Federal Government must become a model for the employment of individuals with disabilities. To that end, Federal agencies will:

  • Ensure compliance with applicable laws including the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,
  • Assess current practices in hiring people with disabilities in the Federal government and evaluate opportunities to enhance equity in their employment,
  • Ensure that applicants with disabilities have access to information about their right of disability self-identification, information about Schedule A hiring authority for individuals with disabilities, and access to information about how to request reasonable accommodations, and
  • Ensure that the response to a request for reasonable accommodations is timely and efficient.

The E.O. also instructs the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Labor to review the Workforce Recruitment Program for college students and recent graduates with disabilities. The Secretaries will submit a report describing steps taken to expand and strengthen the program and job opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

Advancing Equity for LGBTQ+ Employees

This E.O. reinforces the Biden Administration’s policy “to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.” To that end, Federal Agencies will:

  • Ensure that existing employee support services equitably serve LGBTQ+ employees, including, services for transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary employees who wish to legally, medically, or socially transition,
  • Ensure that all LGBTQ+ employees, their beneficiaries, and eligible dependents have equitable access to healthcare and health insurance coverage including gender-affirming care through Federal Employee Health Benefits Program and through the Military Health System,
  • Recognize the diversity of family structures to provide Federal benefits, programs, and services to LGBTQ+ employees, beneficiaries, and eligible dependents,
  • Update Federal employee identification standards to include non-binary gender markers where gender markers are required in employee systems and profiles, and take steps to reduce any unnecessary administrative burden for transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary employees to update their gender markers and pronouns, and
  • Mitigate any barriers in security clearances and background investigation processes for LGBTQ+ employees and applicants.

Pay Equity

To address racial and gender pay gaps the Director of OPM will review Government-wide regulations and guidance to address pay inequities and advance equal pay. Under the guidance of the Director of OPM, Agency heads will review and revise job classification and compensation practices if necessary and prohibit agencies from seeking or relying on an applicant’s salary history during the hiring process for setting pay for a current employee. The Director of OPM will submit a report to the President describing any changes recommended or adopted related to pay equity.

Expanding Employment Opportunities for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals

To support equal opportunity for formerly incarcerated individuals who have served their terms of incarceration and to support their ability to fully integrate into society, the Director of OPM will evaluate any barriers that formerly incarcerated individuals face in accessing federal employment opportunity. The director of OPM will evaluate ways to expand opportunity for formerly incarcerated people and file an evaluation within 120 days.



Elissa Rossi