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Companies nowadays are often promoting diversity and inclusion within their workplace, and this extends to their hiring practices. However, whilst diversity, equity and inclusion are related to workplace culture, equal employment opportunity (EEO) is related to the protection of employees against discrimination during the hiring process and the employment. EEO is enforced by law, and therefore companies must pay attention to, and comply with equal employment opportunity laws. Aside from being a part of employment law, EEO can also positively impact the hiring process and company culture.
We’ll go over the basics of EEO, examples of EEO violations, and how to implement EEO policies within your company.
📍Disclaimer: The information in this article is not a replacement for legal advice.
Equal employment opportunity (EEO) are laws which are enforced to prohibit employment discrimination in the workplace. EEO provides protection to current employees as well as prospective applicants. EEO laws prohibit discrimination of employees based on characteristics which are considered “protected” – which include:
These attributes are protected by EEO and recruiters therefore cannot prejudice against individuals based on these attributes in the hiring process. EEO laws are in place to ensure that candidates are selected based on their suitability for the job and to avoid bias. Therefore, due to EEO enforcement, applicants who are applying for roles can be assured that they will be given fair consideration for the role. Likewise, within the workplace, EEO ensures that features such as wages and company perks must be provided equally to all employees.
EEO compliance is simply adhering to the EEO laws and implementing them in the hiring process. This means that being EEO compliant involves providing equal opportunity to all applicants or employees when hiring, promoting, during disciplinary action, and for pay and time off.
EEO is important to adhere to as a part of employment law, and violating EEO laws can have heavy consequences. There are laws which relate to every aspect and protected attribute covered by EEO.
Examples of EEO laws, in the US alone:
EEO compliance is taken very seriously, and if an employer is caught violating EEO laws, they can face serious consequences. For example, companies of a certain size are required to file an EEO-1 report in the US; this is simply an audit of employee data and demographics. Even if a company complies with EEO in their hiring processes, not filing an EEO-1 report can come with fines and imprisonment. Therefore, even if EEO laws are adhered to, it’s important to take EEO seriously!
For instances where employers are shown to be violating EEO laws, the fines are calculated based on the size of the company, and range from $50,000 – $300,000! In addition, employers violating EEO laws will also have to pay legal fees and compensation to the employees affected.
There might be gray areas which can cause confusion when trying to adhere to EEO laws. Here are examples of situations where employers are in violation of, or adhering to EEO laws.
John is a business owner who has 100 employees. In line with EEO law, his company is now considered an ‘Applicable Large Employer’ and he must file an EEO-1 report of his business and employees' information. John complies with the EEO law and files the report.
Judy is a hiring manager for a tech company. She posts a job advertisement and mentions that anyone who requires any accommodations for the hiring process is welcome to contact her in advance. Judy is being EEO compliant by providing equal opportunity to all applicants.
Jim is a web analyst who has been working at his tech company with a team of other web analysts for over a year. Jim finds out that the other members of his team are on a higher salary than him, despite doing the same job. Jim confronts his manager who says that the others are paid more because they’ve been working there longer. Jim files a complaint to the EEOC as he is being unfairly paid.
Sean was recently hired on a construction site and his boss found out he is gay. On his next shift, Sean is told he isn’t allowed to train on the heavy machinery because his boss thinks he's not “manly” enough for it. Sean files a complaint to the EEOC as he is not being provided equal opportunity based on his sexual orientation.
EEO compliance can seem like a stressful task; however, there are ways to achieve equal opportunity in the workplace.
Consider these tips when forming an EEO statement as an employer:
Our own background and upbringing can give us our own biases which we might not even be aware of. Think of how your unique experiences have shaped your attitudes towards certain people, cultures, or groups. Biases can be both positive and negative, so think of both sides.
Reflect on your own beliefs and background and think of ways you can avoid making stereotyped or biased decisions in the hiring process. How can you maintain a neutral and open-minded perspective in the workplace?
Do a review or audit of your workplace and the types of jobs you hire for. Is there any way to make them more inclusive? Think of accessibility in terms of physical and mental disability, as well as how welcoming the workplace is to different religions, genders and races.
Affirmative action is a way of utilizing EEO to improve diversity and accessibility in the hiring process. Is there a demographic your workplace is lacking or needs more representation? Formulate an outreach program or employee support program or consider targeted recruitment to remedy this.
As an employer, it is your responsibility to implement EEO laws in your workplace. Having everyone on the same page can make sure that you are held accountable as an employer and also gives your employees confidence. Notify your employees of your company’s EEO policy and how you strive for equal opportunities in the workplace and provide them with information about the EEO laws for your area.
This might be a legal requirement for your company depending on its size. If you do not legally have to file an EEO report to your local labor department, consider making your own record of your employee demographics, and what EEO strategies you have implemented.
Even though EEO is written into the employment law, there are still instances of EEO violations, even from major companies. EEO violations can be individual cases, or class-action lawsuits. Whether it was intentionally ignoring labor laws or poor EEO adherence from recruiters, EEO violations still carry penalties. Here are famous examples of violations of equal employment laws, and how they were managed.
In 2017, four female former Google employees filed a Lawsuit against Google, claiming they were receiving a lower base salary, smaller bonuses and less stock than male co-workers in the same role. This lawsuit is now a class-action due to its blatant violation of The Equal Pay Act of 1963. If Google is found guilty, they will be required to pay out $600 million in damages. Google claims that they adjust their pay statuses and maintain equal pay between their employees through rigorous audits and analyses.
Ford was found in violation of EEO laws regarding racial and sexual discrimination against its African-American employees, and was required to pay $10.25 million to employees who were subject to the harassment. The company implemented new programs and training to prevent future incidents of harassment.
Citigroup, a banking giant, was sued for age discrimination of a 55-year-old employee after he was called “old” and made redundant in 2020. The ex-employee made the claim that he was discriminated against based on his age; this is a blatant violation of age discrimination laws. Citigroup was required to pay $2.7 million for the unfair redundancy and made changes to their EEO practices.
🔑 Key Takeaways:
EEO compliance is an important aspect of having a fair and equal workplace. Although EEO is a legal obligation for businesses, protecting workers from discrimination can foster a healthy work environment and improve outcomes.
EEO should be implemented throughout the company, from the hiring process to promotions, time off and pay for employees. Thinking of ways to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in your workplace can help you with forming EEO policies, through affirmative action or reducing biases. Implementing an EEO policy, keeping up to date on EEO law, and maintaining equality in the workplace will ensure that your employees will have equal employment opportunities.
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--- Originally written by Bronte McNamara ---