50 for 50: Five Decades of the Most Important Discrimination Law Developments

Number 29: The EEOC Requires Employers to File EEO-1 Reports

The EEOC is tasked not only with enforcement and adjudication of employment discrimination; it also has data-collecting requirements.  In some cases, that data-collecting is easy: the EEOC can easily count the number and type of discrimination and harassment charges it receives every year.  But, the EEOC has taken data-collecting a step further. 

Within a year of the EEOC’s establishment in 1965 to enforce Title VII, the Commission began requiring employers to report a count of their employees in basic job, gender, racial, and ethnic categories.  Private employers with at least 100 employees, or federal contractors with at least fifty employees, must submit this annual EEO-1 report to the government.  The reporting requirements have evolved over time to allow employees to identify as “two or more races” rather than just one, include more expansive racial and ethnic definitions, and provide further guidance to employers regarding job classifications.

The EEOC uses EEO-1 data to support its enforcement of Title VII and analyze employment patterns, such as the representation of female and minority workers within particular companies, industries, or regions.  After the first submission of EEO-1 reports in 1967, the EEOC sponsored public hearings regarding the stark lack of diversity in particular industries and regions.  The initial statistics showed that almost fifty percent of major corporations in New York did not employ a single African American or Spanish surnamed employee; ninety-nine percent of African American employees in North and South Carolina’s textile industry worked in the lowest paid positions, and overall women and minorities were underrepresented in jobs across the country.

While significant strides have been made since the 1960’s to employ a workforce that is diverse in its representation of all races and ethnicities, with male and female workers, employers can and should take advantage of the governmental EEO-1 reporting requirement to assess and improve diversity of their own personnel.  The EEOC often reviews EEO-1 reports when investigating discrimination charges.  Although the reports are confidential, they may be discoverable in litigation and used by plaintiffs to support, or hopefully by employers to defend against discrimination claims.

- Alison Hamer

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