What is the EEOC?
The EEOC or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is an agency of the federal government, created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). The purpose of the EEOC is to interpret and enforce federal laws prohibiting discrimination.
What are EEO questions?
EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) questions are most commonly found on job applications. Companies are required to ask these questions in order to file the EEO-1 Report. This report is a compliance survey mandated by federal statute and regulations.
“These laws protect employees and job applicants against employment discrimination when it involves unfair treatment because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.” - U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Examples of EEO questions
Job applicants will usually come across questions by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), as part of a voluntary EEO Survey. In this survey, the job applicant is given questions that a company, by law, is not able to ask during the hiring process.
Some questions you may see on the EEO survey that you should not see during the hiring process are:
- What is your race?
- What is your gender?
- Do you have a disability?
So, why is it that you are given questions the company is not allowed to ask during the hiring process on the very job application you are using to apply? We will explain what is happening and what you can do about it.
When you see EEO questions
According to the EEOC website, companies that meet certain criteria must file an EEO-1 report annually to show data for their “employment practices” ie. “data for those paid employees”. Therefore, job applicants will see EEO questions on applications when a company has the following:
- Subject to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with 100 or more employees; or...
- Subject to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with fewer than 100 employees, if the company is under the ownership or has a corporate affiliation with another company and the entire enterprise employs a total of 100 or more employees; or...
- Federal government prime contractors or first-tier subcontractors subject to Executive Order 11246, with 50 or more employees and a prime contract or first-tier subcontract amounting to $50,000 or more.
If you are applying and do not get asked the EEO questions, the company may not meet the above criteria. Most of the time, large companies ask applicants to fill out EEOC surveys.
Do you have to answer EEO questions?
No, job applicants do not have to answer the EEO questions on job applications, but they must decline to answer. More so, the data from the questions only becomes relevant if the person accepts the job. The survey for applicants and employees is in place for people to self-identify. This provides hiring practices data to the EEOC.
If the job applicant declines to self-identify, employment records or observer identification may be used to provide the data. With that said, a person filling out job applications should consider whether it is their best interest to self-identify.
If you apply for jobs online fearing your gender, race, ethnicity, or disability is holding you back, choosing not to self-identify may be a lost opportunity to tell the EEOC you received the job.
Is honesty always the best policy?
There are several factors to consider here if you are a job applicant and you feel uneasy about answering questions regarding your race, gender, or disability status:
- Do you want to start a business relationship by feeling you are not being honest up front?
- Do you want to work for a company where you fear you cannot be yourself?
Remember, the company is NOT able to ask you questions about your race, gender, marital status, age, and disability. Yet, the EEOC asks in order to make sure companies are not misbehaving.