In the United States, there's a law that helps protect the American dream. The law says that companies have to provide everybody with the same opportunity to succeed. Technically, the law specifies what companies can't do rather than what they should do, and what they can't do is discriminate based on a number of criteria. An Equal Opportunity Employer, or EOE, is a company that complies with the law against discrimination to promote equal opportunities for everyone.
Equal Opportunity Employer
An EOE is a company that gives every person the same opportunity to succeed at the company as every other person, regardless of race, color, religion, sex or pregnancy status, national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. An EOE applies this nondiscrimination policy to most human resource-related areas such as hiring, firing, promotions, training, salaries and benefits.
Every company in the United States with 15 or more employees, including labor unions and employment agencies, must be an equal opportunity employer because federal law requires it. The age discrimination category applies only to companies with 20 or more employees. The law also says that companies can't discriminate against someone because they complained about discrimination, filed a complaint or charge of discrimination, or participated in a lawsuit or investigation regarding discrimination.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, enforces the federal nondiscrimination laws. When someone files a discrimination complaint, the EEOC conducts an investigation, makes a determination whether discrimination occurred and tries to settle the case. If it can't reach a settlement, the EEOC can file a lawsuit against the company, but doesn't always do so.
While there is no law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, thousands of companies, including almost 90 percent of the Fortune 500, 22 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government added a commitment to nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation to their policies on equal employment. About half of the Fortune 500, 16 states and D.C. also included gender identity/expression in their EOE policies. The federal government also added "status as a parent" to its list of nondiscrimination categories.
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: About the EEOC
- Institute of Real Estate Management: Laws Prohibiting Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
- U.S. Office of Personnel Management: Addressing Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Federal Civilian Employment
- Human Rights Campaign: Workplace Discrimination: Policies, Laws and Legislation
- Human Rights Campaign: Statewide Employment Laws & Policies
Steve McDonnell's experience running businesses and launching companies complements his technical expertise in information, technology and human resources. He earned a degree in computer science from Dartmouth College, served on the WorldatWork editorial board, blogged for the Spotfire Business Intelligence blog and has published books and book chapters for International Human Resource Information Management and Westlaw.