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 against a person's age, race, gender, national origin, disability, and/or religion.
“Applicants, employees and former employees are protected from employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, age (40 or older), disability and genetic information (including family medical history).” - U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
What Are EEO Questions?
EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) questions are most commonly found at the very end of a job application. Companies are required to ask EEO questions on job applications in order to file the EEO-1 Report; a compliance survey mandated by federal statute and regulations.
What is the Purpose of an EEO-1 Report?
Its purpose is to require company employment data to be categorized by race/ethnicity, gender, and job category. The EEO-1 Report is a compliance survey mandated by federal statutes and regulations.
What Do They Do With My EEO Information?
The information on an EEO-1 report is used to support civil rights enforcement and analyze employment patterns. For example, an EEO-1 report would be used to see if women and minorities within companies, industries, or regions are being properly represented in the workforce.
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?
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 EEO questions on job applications, but they must decline to answer if they are not willing to take the survey. 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 in their best interest to self-identify on an EEO-1. If everyone chooses to not answer, it becomes more difficult to prove to the EEOC that workplace discrimination exists.
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 employment 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 that leaves you feeling you cannot be yourself?
Addressing Concerns About the EEO Survey
A concern clients have mentioned to Career Coaches at Find My Profession involves "Who sees the answers to my EEO questions?" and "Does it secretly play a part in the hiring process?" These are fair questions because job seekers never get to see what an employer will do with their answers to EEO questions.
It is important to note that people who get phone screenings have a resume that fits the job description. People who get hired have successful interviews explaining why they are a fit for the position. All of this matters much more than the answers to your EEO questions.
There are situations where being untruthful can cause a company to call someone in for a job interview. For example, if a job seeker lies and claims to be part of a protected class. But if you are interviewed or eventually hired, the truth will eventually come out.
If you are truthful on EEO surveys, plus a 100% fit for every job application and you crush every job interview, but still do not get hired, you can make a case for not filling out the EEO survey. However, there is no such thing as a person being a 100% fit for every job and better than all the competition, all of the time.
Importance of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The EEOC is important for making sure companies are NOT asking you questions about your race, gender, marital status, age, and disability. If the EEO-1 form is asking you, they are doing it to make sure companies are not misbehaving.
For more details and EEO information, please visit the U.S. EEOC website.