You are here

EEO Set of Laws

30 October, 2015 - 17:10

We discuss Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws in Chapter 3. They are worth mentioning again here in relation to the recruitment process. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency charged with the task of enforcing federal employment discrimination laws. While there are restrictions on the type of company covered (companies with at least fifteen employees), the EEOC requires collection of data and investigates discrimination claims, again, for organizations with more than fifteen employees.

Under EEO law related to the recruitment process, employers cannot discriminate based on age (forty years or older), disability, genetic information, national origin, sex, pregnancy, race, and religion. In a job announcement, organizations usually have an EEO statement. Here are some examples:

  1. (Company name) is fully committed to Equal Employment Opportunity and to attracting, retaining, developing, and promoting the most qualified employees without regard to their race, gender, color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, age, physical or mental disability, citizenship status, veteran status, or any other characteristic prohibited by state or local law. We are dedicated to providing a work environment free from discrimination and harassment, and where employees are treated with respect and dignity.
  2. (Company name) does not unlawfully discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, age, height, weight, marital status, familial status, handicap/disability, sexual orientation, or veteran status in employment or the provision of services, and provides, upon request, reasonable accommodation including auxiliary aids and services necessary to afford individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in all programs and activities.
  3. It is the policy of (college name), in full accordance with the law, not to discriminate in employment, student admissions, and student services on the basis of race, color, religion, age, political affiliation or belief, sex, national origin, ancestry, disability, place of birth, general education development certification (GED), marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, veteran status, or any other legally protected classification. (College name) recognizes its responsibility to promote the principles of equal opportunity for employment, student admissions, and student services taking active steps to recruit minorities and women.
  4. (Company name) will not discriminate against or harass any employee or applicant for employment on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, or status with regard to public assistance. (Company name) will take affirmative action to ensure that all practices are free of such discrimination. Such employment practices include, but are not limited to, the following: hiring, upgrading, demotion, transfer, recruitment or recruitment advertising, selection, layoff, disciplinary action, termination, rates of pay or other forms of compensation, and selection for training.

In addition to including the EEO policy in the job announcement, HR is required to post notices of EEOC policies in a visible part of the work environment (such as the break room).

Although the EEOC laws in hiring are clear about discrimination, an exception may occur, called the bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). BFOQ is a quality or attribute that is reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the business and that can be used when considering applicants. To obtain a BFOQ exception, a company must prove that a particular person could not perform the job duties because of sex, age, religion, disability, and national origin. Examples of BFOQ exceptions might include the following:

  1. A private religious school may require a faculty member to be of the same denomination.
  2. Mandatory retirement is required for airline pilots at a certain age.
  3. A clothing store that sells male clothing is allowed to hire only male models.
  4. If an essence of a restaurant relies on one sex versus another (e.g., Hooters), they may not be required to hire male servers.

However, many arguments for BFOQ would not be considered valid. For example, race has never been a BFOQ, nor has customers’ having a preference for a particular gender. Generally speaking, when going through the recruitment process and writing job descriptions, assuming a BFOQ would apply might be a mistake. Seeking legal council before writing a job description would be prudent.

Other aspects to consider in the development of the job description are disparate impact and disparate treatment. These are the two ways to classify employment discrimination cases. Disparate impact occurs when an organization discriminates through the use of a process, affecting a protected group as a whole, rather than consciously intending to discriminate. Some examples of disparate impact might include the following:

  1. Requirement of a high school diploma, which may not be important to employment, could discriminate against racial groups
  2. A height requirement, which could limit the ability of women or persons of certain races to apply for the position
  3. Written tests that do not relate directly to the job
  4. Awarding of pay raises on the basis of, say, fewer than five years of experience, which could discriminate against people older than forty

Disparate treatment, when one person is intentionally treated differently than another, does not necessarily impact the larger protected group as a whole, as in disparate impact. The challenge in these cases is to determine if someone was treated differently because of their race or gender or if there was another reason for the different treatment. Here are two examples:

  1. Both a male and a female miss work, and the female is fired but the male is not.
  2. A company does not hire people of a certain race or gender, without a BFOQ.

Human Resource Recall

Can you think of other examples of disparate impact that might affect a certain protected group of people under EEOC?

Key Takeaways

  • IRCA stands for Immigration and Reform Act. This law requires all employers to determine eligibility of an employee to work in the United States. The reporting form is called an I-9 and must be completed and kept on file (paper or electronic) for at least three years, but some states require this documentation to be kept on file for the duration of the employee’s period of employment.
  • The Patriot Act allows the government access to data that would normally be considered private—for example, an employee’s records and work voice mails and e-mails (without the company’s consent). The HR professional might consider letting employees know of the compliance with this law.
  • The EEOC is a federal agency charged with ensuring discrimination does not occur in the workplace. They oversee the equal employment opportunity (EEO) set of laws. Organizations must post EEO laws in a visible location at their workplace and also include them on job announcements.
  • Related to the EEOC, the bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) makes it legal to discriminate in hiring based on special circumstances—for example, requiring the retirement of airline pilots at a certain age due to safety concerns.
  • Disparate impact refers to a policy that may limit a protected EEO group from receiving fair treatment. Disparate impact might include a test or requirement that negatively impacts someone based on protected group status. An example is requiring a high school diploma, which may not directly impact the job. Disparate treatment refers to discrimination against an individual, such as the hiring of one person over another based on race or gender.


  1. Describe the difference between disparate treatment and disparate impact.
  2. Explain a situation (other than the ones described in this section) in which a BFOQ might be appropriate. Then research to see if in the past this reasoning has been accepted as a BFOQ.