EEO: an Overview


The unfavorable or unfair treatment of a person or class of persons in comparison to others who are not members of the protected class because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or handicapping condition, or in reprisal for opposition to discriminatory practices or participation in the EEO process.

The law prohibits discrimination in all aspects of employment, including recruitment, selection, evaluation, promotion, training, compensation, discipline, retention and working conditions.

EEO or Affirmative Action?

Federal EEO laws do not require an employer to extend preferential treatment to any person or group because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or handicapping condition. EEO merely demands that all persons receive the same opportunities for hiring, training, promotion, etc. When those opportunities have not been available to all groups in the past because of discrimination, affirmative employment is required to overcome the effect of such bias.

These laws protect individuals by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of:

Discrimination in employment may be shown using one of several theories:

Disparate TreatmentDisparate Impact
Unfavorable or unfair treatment of a person in comparison to others similarly situated because of that person's protected status. This generally involves the inconsistent or unfair application of an employment rule, policy, or practice against a specific individual.

This treatment also is referred to as "unequal" or "differential treatment."

Uniform application to all applicants or employees of certain personnel policies that have the effect of denying employment or advancement to members of protected classes. Business necessity would be the only justification for continuing these policies.

This treatment also is referred to as "discrimination by effect" or "adverse impact."

Discrimination does not have to be intentional to be unlawful. Some practices and actions unintentionally discriminate and are unlawful.

Common definitions for racial categories are:

Discrimination against disabled

Occurs when an employee or applicant is treated differently on the basis of a disability condition. It can also happen when an organization fails to make reasonable accommodation for qualified disabled employees and applicants who are able to meet the requirements of the position through reasonable assistance or modification. Where a disabled person is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.