Equal Employment Opportunity: What You Should Know About EEO

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws protect job candidates and employees from discrimination.

Disclaimer: Bryq does not offer legal advice, nor is this blog post a legal document. We strongly encourage you to seek legal counsel from a law professional to learn more about your local discrimination laws, EEO, and what you might need to do within your own organization.

The need for diversity and inclusion efforts has changed the way we run our organizations. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws ensure that the rights of employees aren’t infringed upon at any point in the employment process. Companies are now held to a higher standard of social responsibility due to a quickly changing sociopolitical landscape. This begs the question…is diverse hiring a choice, or is it a company’s legal obligation? Let’s find out!

What is the EEOC?

When job seekers and employees feel that they have been discriminated against by a company, it is up to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to help get to the bottom of it. The EEOC is a U.S. federal government agency established in 1964 to administer and enforce civil rights laws that make it illegal to discriminate against job seekers and employees.

Local and national EEO laws may protect the following protected employee characteristics:

  • Nationality
  • Ethnicity
  • Race
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity or gender expression
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Mental or physical ability
  • Disability
  • Veteran status

EEO doesn’t guarantee that protected groups of employees will be hired. What it does is ensure that nobody will be rejected or be given more of a challenge because they are in a protected group. To ensure that your company is abiding by these EEO regulations, you may need to file an EEO-1 report if your company meets certain criteria. Even if you don’t meet the criteria, it might be a good idea to submit one anyway. The data you collect will help you improve diversity in your company.

The Importance of Diversity in the Workplace

The EEOC calls for a hiring process that is objective and free from discrimination. A blind hiring process really helps to ensure this happens. The legal implications that might come from a hiring process that is not free from bias are never worth it.

Additionally, diversity does nothing but add value to your business. Having a diverse workplace is really welcoming to people of all backgrounds, but it does much more than just make people feel comfortable. Diverse workplaces are more productive, more innovative, and result in happier employees that can communicate with one another more easily. This all leads to more profitability and helps your bottom line. Not only that – but it’s the right thing to do!

Create an EEO Statement

EEO statements are a great way for your company to show that you are an Equal Employment Opportunity employer. An EEO statement is a small statement at the bottom of a job description. It lets potential candidates know that you hire with diversity and inclusion in mind. While EEO statements are only mandatory for a handful of federal organizations in America, they are a good idea for all companies to have. They are a great way to make job seekers feel comfortable applying for a job at your company. It bodes well for your company if job seekers know that you value diversity and take inclusion seriously from the start.

So…is Diverse Hiring a Choice or an Obligation?

The answer is that the legality of hiring with a commitment to diversity and inclusion is not black and white, and that many factors come into play. While the EEOC helps to protect many protected individuals, EEO laws vary between countries, states, and even at local municipality levels.

Any employee or job candidate is entitled to take legal action against employment practices they feel are discriminatory. Employees must show adverse impact. If they can prove this, employers will need to show a legitimate reason for an employment practice – which may not stand up in court. While employees do need to prove that discrimination has taken place, there are guidelines made by federal organizations like the EEOC that are likely to be upheld in a court of law.

The “Four-Fifths” Rule

Take, for instance, the “four-fifths” rule, also known as the “80%” rule. This rule determines adverse impact – practices and decisions that disproportionately affect one or more groups of employees with protected characteristics. How does this rule measure adverse impact? The rule states that the lesser-represented group must be equal to or at least 4/5ths of the most-represented group. If it is, there is no evidence of adverse impact. If it isn’t, there is evidence of adverse impact. 

Confusing, right? Let’s break it down. First, you must identify a hiring practice that is discriminatory. Perhaps candidates must be able to lift a certain amount of weight to perform this job. Next, you need to calculate the selection rate for each group of hires. How do we do this?

Let’s imagine 100 people applied for a job as a construction worker, 50 men and 50 women. 40 men were offered positions, but only 30 women were offered the same position. This would mean 80% of male candidates were hired, while only 60% of females were hired. It is clear that men have the highest selection rate. Once you’ve identified the highest rate, calculate the adverse impact ratios. This means dividing the lowest selection rate with the highest. In this case, 60%/80% = 75%. Because the impact ratio for women is less than 80%, this hiring practice shows evidence of adverse impact and a candidate has grounds to file a complaint with the EEOC.

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws protect job candidates and employees from discrimination.

Is the “Four-Fifths” Rule the Law?

While the four-fifths rule is not a legal definition, it is a guideline that helps authorities make rulings in discrimination cases. If an employee can prove adverse impact in court, it does not bode well for your company. Remember that adverse impact based on requirements or tests needs to be proven. If you are advertising to fill a cashier role with a bachelor’s degree as a requirement, this could be viewed as discriminatory on the grounds of adverse impact. However, if you are hiring for a data analyst position and are also requiring a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, then a candidate would have a hard time proving adverse impact.

There are a number of ways your company can commit to following EEO guidelines and avoid legal action. Firstly, you should audit your current hiring process. Is the hiring team diverse? Are the requirements and hiring methods unbiased? Ensure that there are no requirements that could make the application process unfair towards certain applicants. Additionally, management should be encouraging both their employees and themselves to check their biases. Is there unconscious bias within your organization that might be leading towards a lack of diversity or the inability to retain diverse talent? Companies should also be looking at the language in both their job descriptions and their internal policies. Ensure that language is inclusive and neutral so it doesn’t discourage certain groups of applicants from applying.

How Bryq Can Help with EEO

Having concrete EEO policies and creating original EEO statements that reflect your company’s commitment to hiring diverse talent are important to have. They set hiring precedents for employees and give hiring managers a guideline. They also allow prospective employees to get a sense of your company values and might offer them a sense of comfort when applying. However, simply having these in place is not enough. Unconscious bias and unequal workplace conditions for minority groups get in the way of companies truly embracing diversity. It is up to you to ensure fairness in the hiring process and commitment to diversity.

Bryq can help you to eliminate bias in your hiring process so you can create innovative and diverse teams. Our talent assessment software ensures a blind screening process based solely on objective data such as personality traits and cognitive abilities. There is even an option to blur out the names of your candidates to make your hiring process truly blind! Allow us to help you make your hiring process faster, cost-effective, and free from bias.

Click here to sign up for a 7-day free trial with us! You can also book a demo with our team of experts if you’d like to see how we squash bias in real-time.

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