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What Is an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Statement?
An EEO statement is a tagline or paragraph included on job postings (and in other places) that indicates your company is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Specifically, it means your US company will treat people fairly without regard of these protected classes: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information.
(Note that here, sex is taken to mean more than male or female designation. In the US courts, sex descrimination includes pregnancy, gender identity and sexual orientation. This is why you will sometimes see these listed specifically, but not always.)
What It Means to Be an Equal Opportunity Employer
This can be confusing because US federal anti-discrimination laws differ in requirements. For example, some laws apply when you have 15 employees, and others don’t apply until you have 20. Further, EEO statements are only required if your company is a federal contractor; otherwise, they are optional.
A company can be an Equal Opportunity Employer without being a federal contractor (see an EEO statement below by Automattic as an example), but all federal contractors must be Equal Opportunity Employers.
If you don’t know if your company is a federal contractor, try this resource from the federal government: https://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/ofccp/fcca/determine.asp.
Why You Need an EEO Statement
Because only federal contractors are required to create and post EEO statements, you may be wondering why anyone else would bother. It is recommended for four basic reasons:
- Compliance. If you are a federal contractor, you need to abide by the requirements. If you aren’t, there’s no harm in committing publicly to follow the laws (i.e., not discriminate).
- Improvement. Whether you are a federal contractor or not, odds are good that your company could do a better job at providing equal job opportunities. A voluntary EEO statement helps keep the vision fresh for your employees and reinvigorate your culture.
- Reputation. Do you want your vendors or candidates wondering where your company stands on equal employment opportunities? You have the opportunity to shape your message rather than letting others fill it in with their own assumptions.
- Commitment. If “what gets measured gets done,” then making the commitment to be mindful of providing equal opportunity is the first step in building a more robust Diversity and Inclusiveness (D&I) or Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness (DEI) strategy.
How to Write an EEO Statement that Attracts Talent
Whether your primary objective is to remain compliant or to attract diverse and forward-thinking talent, the steps to writing a great EEO statement remain the same:
- Meet the requirements
- Convey your company’s DEI vision
- Explain how your company is taking action
- Call others to action
Step 1: Meet the Requirements
If you are a federal contractor, you can provide a longer statement or use what the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) calls a “tagline.” Approved taglines provided by the OFCCP follow, as does the supplied language for a longer statement that can be customized to the company. Here’s an example of a longer statement:
<Insert company name> is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or veteran status.
Remember, if you are not a federal contractor, you can write whatever makes sense for your company’s DEI strategy and vision or forego it entirely.
If you decide to use the tagline method, please refer to the following list of acceptable taglines provided by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP):
- Acceptable Tagline Options for Contractors Meeting the Minimum Threshold for Executive Order 11246
- An Equal Opportunity Employer
- All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin.
- Acceptable Tagline Options for Contractors Meeting the Minimum Thresholds for Executive Order 11246 and Section 503
- An Equal Opportunity Employer, including disability
- EOE: race/color/religion/sex/sexual orientation/gender identity/ national origin/disability
- Acceptable Tagline Options for Contractors Meeting the Minimum Thresholds for Executive Order 11246, Section 503, and VEVRAA
- All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or status as a protected veteran.
- EOE, including disability/vets
Note that sample language referring to each law has also been provided for federal contractors by the OFCCP:
This contractor and subcontractor shall abide by the requirements of 41 CFR 60-1.4(a), 41 CFR 60-300.5(a) and 41 CFR 60-741.5(a). These regulations prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals based on their status as protected veterans or individuals with disabilities, and prohibit discrimination against all individuals based on their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin. Moreover, these regulations require that covered prime contractors and subcontractors take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment individuals without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or veteran status.
Step 2: Convey Your Company’s DEI Vision
The goal is to convey what your DEI aspiration is, that your company believes it can be achieved, and why it is so deeply ingrained in your company culture. Why does your company care about inequity and inclusion?
If your company is not quite at the point of having your own DEI strategy and vision, many resources exist to assist in drafting the business case for pursuing a more diverse talent pool. From there, you as HR can assist leadership in understanding the importance and desirability of creating a robust strategy and culture that supports DEI.
Just make sure you really mean what you say here, because internal and external stakeholders will hold your company accountable for the commitments once made.
Step 3: Explain how your company is taking action
Make clear what actions the company has taken, is taking, and will soon be enacting to make changes in how the company (or even society as a whole) thinks, behaves or just relates to each other. How is your company addressing inequity and inclusion? (This should be more active than discussions.) This is your opportunity to demonstrate to external people how important this is to your company. Show your commitment and drive by committing resources to the cause. Candidates, suppliers and more want to know what you are actually doing to affect change and how effective those actions are—and this is more true than ever in the wake of social justice protests in 2020.
Step 4: Call Others to Action
Give candidates the opportunity to learn even more about your company’s DEI values and commitments by directing them to your careers webpage. Ideally, this will feature testimonials from new hires and long-tenured employees, support statements from leadership, pictures that can help some underrepresented groups see someone like themselves being successful in the company, and more.
Provide contact information for those who need to request accommodations quickly and discreetly. As a bonus, by assisting candidates in obtaining accommodations, you not only help improve the candidate’s experience, your company’s reputation, and your Affirmative Action Plan (AAP), you also improve the likelihood that your company will improve its diversity. Happy candidates become happy new hires.
Examples of Great EEO Statements
Below are four examples of EEO statements for different purposes.
Automattic is an Equal Opportunity Employer, but not a federal contractor.
We’re improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in the tech industry. At Automattic, we want people to love their work and show respect and empathy to all. We welcome differences and strive to increase participation from traditionally underrepresented groups. Our DEI committee involves Automatticians across the company and drives grassroots change. For example, this group has helped facilitate private online spaces for affiliated Automatticians to gather and helps run a monthly DEI People Lab series for further learning. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is a priority at Automattic, though our dedication influences far more than just Automatticians: We make our products freely available and translate our products into and offer customer support in numerous languages. We require unconscious bias training for our hiring teams and ensure our products are accessible across different bandwidths and devices. Learn more about our dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion and our Employee Resource Groups.
Automattic is not a federal contractor, so they can take some creative license in how they craft their EEO statement. Note how they open with an active claim. This denotes the action they are taking is successful. They also include a few lines about their specific actions. This assures candidates that they mean what they say.
As an added show of commitment, when you visit their careers webpage, their DEI pages are not just celebratory of what they have accomplished, but are also full of resources you can use to improve your inclusivity.
Ben & Jerry’s (Unilever)
Ben & Jerry’s is a federal contractor (by way of Unilever), and therefore is also an Equal Opportunity Employer.
Unilever is an organization committed to diversity and inclusion to drive our business results and create a better future every day for our diverse employees, global consumers, partners, and communities. We believe a diverse workforce allows us to match our growth ambitions and drive inclusion across the business. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, status as a protected veteran, status as an individual with a disability, genetic information, or other applicable legally protected characteristics by federal, state, or local law. For more information, please see Equal Employment Opportunity posters.
Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer Minorities/Females/Protected Veterans/Persons with Disabilities
Employment is subject to verification of pre-screening tests, which may include drug screening, background check, credit check and DMV check.
If you are an individual with a disability in need of assistance at any time during our recruitment process, please contact us at [email protected] Please note: This email is reserved for individuals with disabilities in need of assistance and is not a means of inquiry about positions or application statuses.
Ben & Jerry’s has opted to use a tagline as a federal contractor addition to expressly state their commitments. They have also leveraged their business justification for DEI in creating this statement. They have invited others to take action by viewing required postings that demonstrate their commitment to meeting the requirements.
(Note that the legality of referencing pre-screening is dependent on state and local laws as well as for federal contractors under the Fair Chance Act. For more information on this topic, please research “Ban the Box” or “Fair Chance.” This is not a part of the Equal Opportunity requirements.)
Dell Technologies, a federal contractor, provides a longer and more robust statement than required.
Dell is committed to the principle of equal employment opportunity for all employees and to providing employees with a work environment free of discrimination and harassment. All employment decisions at Dell are based on business needs, job requirements and individual qualifications, without regard to race, color, religion or belief, national, social or ethnic origin, sex (including pregnancy), age, physical, mental or sensory disability, HIV Status, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, marital, civil union or domestic partnership status, past or present military service, family medical history or genetic information, family or parental status, or any other status protected by the laws or regulations in the locations where we operate. Dell will not tolerate discrimination or harassment based on any of these characteristics. Dell encourages applicants of all ages. Read the full Employment Opportunity Policy here.
Dell has committed to not tolerating discrimination or harassment in their statement, and they have included a number of non-protected classes in their statement as well. Had they added one extra coverage, candidates may not have noticed. Because their listing is so extensive, candidates will take note that they are committing to more than other employers are committing to. Note also how they invite others to take action by viewing a longer, more comprehensive statement on their website.
Cupertino Electric, a federal contractor, leverages key wording to impress candidates with their sincerity.
Cupertino Electric, Inc. (CEI) is proud to be an Equal Employment Opportunity and affirmative action employer. We celebrate diversity and do not discriminate based on race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, veteran status, disability status, or any other applicable characteristics protected by law.
Cupertino Electric Inc. aims to make cei.com accessible to any and all users. If you have a disability or special need that requires accommodation to navigate our website or complete the application process, please contact us at [email protected] or 1-(877)-747-4CEI.
Without using a large number of words, Cupertino Electric meets the requirements and invites action (in a more diverse-friendly way by offering both a phone number and email address). They added just a few words that provide more meaning to their legal requirement by stating they “celebrate diversity.” This, in conjunction with being “proud” to meet these legal requirements, conveys that these requirements are an honor they are happy to exceed. Cupertino is a good example of why you should invite your marketing department or communications specialist into a conversation on drafting these statements, if available to you.
EEO Statement for Inclusion in Supply or Service Subcontract
This is a sample EEO statement provided by the OFCCP to include in contracts with suppliers, etc. (It is required of federal contractors but not most other companies. This is a part of maintaining an Affirmative Action Plan.).
This contractor and subcontractor shall abide by the requirements of 41 CFR 60–1.4(a), 60–300.5(a) and 60–741.5(a). These regulations prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals based on their status as protected veterans or individuals with disabilities, and prohibit discrimination against all individuals based on their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, or for inquiring about, discussing, or disclosing information about compensation. Moreover, these regulations require that covered prime contractors and subcontractors take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment individuals without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or veteran status.
This example is provided by the OFCCP, which is the organization that audits AAPs. Note that it references the specific regulations the statement is intended to address as well as explicitly stating all protected classes, including disability and veteran status, and outlines the need for the organization to take affirmative action.
EEO Policy Statement
The EEO Policy Statement issued by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission must be provided to employees of federal government agencies and federal contractors annually as a part of the annual Affirmative Action Plan (most often by posting on bulletin boards and internal company websites).
It is quite lengthy, and can be found here: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeo-policy-statement.
While this example is too long to use in contracts, purchase orders or job postings, it is nevertheless one of the formats required of a federal contractor and optional for an Equal Opportunity Employer. This long format provides ample opportunity to share the aspiration and vision of the organization as well as provide resources, both of which are identifiable in the example linked to above. This example demonstrates the use of vision and aspiration to convey the organization’s conviction and reiterate that belief to the employees.
Hypothetical Company, Inc.
Here’s a federal contractor example created for a non-existent company.
At Hypothetical Company, Inc., we believe in the power of diverse thinking to lead us to the most innovative ideas. That is why we offer (among other benefits) generous parental leave, which has taken us from #30 to #12 on Money Magazine’s 50 Best Places to Work list in 2020.
We don’t tolerate harassment or discrimination. We value individuality, collaboration, and merit. Employment decisions are based on merit, law, and business needs. We do not discriminate against protected classes or other groups, including but not limited to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, disability or veteran status.
We take affirmative action to ensure these underrepresented groups are afforded opportunities the same as everyone else. We believe everyone deserves our respect. Learn more about our vision and commitments in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion space by visiting www.hypothetical.com/careers. You’ll also find our full Equal Opportunity Policy and links to related government postings that clarify your rights.
We know not everyone has the same background, and because we thrive on growth at Hypothetical, we encourage you to apply for positions that you might not feel entirely confident about. If you need accommodations for any portion of the hiring process, please reach out to us (call or text 555-555-5555 or email [email protected]).
Federal contractors should state the company name in their statement, but that doesn’t mean it can’t use inclusive “we” language that is more appealing to candidates. Humans often want to be a part of the group, so using “we” can be a powerful if subtle technique.
You can use an EEO statement to talk about not only what you don’t do (discriminate) but to highlight positive actions you take to support diversity. Outline the values that underlie your DEI strategy or vision and point out the best of what you have done, or the most successful initiatives.
Leave them wanting more is bad advice when recruiting. Give them everything they expect and then some is better advice. Getting candidates to engage with the company is a wonderful way to get them excited about a potential role and share benefits, perks, and the DEI vision with them all at once.
How to Back Up Your EEO Statement
If you are a federal contractor, you will complete an AAP annually in addition to reporting on forms such as EEO-1 and possibly VETS-4212. To make your AAP something more meaningful than a government requirement, keep track of all the ways your company has supported existing protected classes and attempted to recruit others (which falls under your AAP “outreach” requirements) each year.
Whether you are a federal contractor or not, you did all of that work and you helped all those people—why not document and celebrate it? Many companies now include information on DEI on their webpage that tells candidates what it is like to work there, what their values are, etc. Don’t forget to share the company’s successes internally too, especially if you want to retain diverse talent and receive employee referrals for other great talent.
This is a key component to your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reputation. It is also critical to the way your company culture operates. It has to be enthusiastically owned from leadership to the front line to come across sincerely to the outside world.
Work with your leadership to build an executable strategy that both acknowledges where your culture is today and where you want it to be in a specific period of time, and use EEO statements (even if not required) as a tool to help get you there. Consider trying out your EEO statement on an internal focus group. How would your employees respond if they read a job posting with your new EEO statement on it? If you get rolled eyes, you might need to craft something more aspirational while you work on the culture first.
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Questions You’ve Asked Us About EEO Statements
Angela Livingston, SHRM-CP, MBA has nearly a decade of HR experience in high regulated, high tech companies that are Federal Contractors and supported people in other states. She’s worked for an international company with ~20K US employees that did a lot of immigration work, and she’s worked for a company with ~3500 US employees that doesn’t support work visas. One constant is that she’s always working with people empathetically with an eye on integrity.
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