There are a lot of factors to consider when finding a new job, and it can be easy to overlook a block of text at the bottom of a job description that seems unrelated. But an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Statement shares important information about how a company treats their employees and applicants. The Equal Employment Opportunity statement is the result of the hard-fought Civil Rights Act of 1964–as well as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.
What is an Equal Employment Opportunity Statement and what does it do?
On a job application, an EEO statement demonstrates compliance with nondiscrimination law. That means a company cannot discriminate against protected groups. Legally, companies are prohibited from discriminating against people based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or genetic information. Employees also have a right to receive reasonable accommodations needed for a medical condition or religious beliefs. Most companies with at least 15 employees are legally required to be in compliance with these nondiscrimination laws.
So while an EEO statement can be simply a way of demonstrating that a company is following the law, advocates say an EEO statement is one crucial way companies can both market company priorities and attract more (and more diverse) candidates.
2 concrete ways Equal Employment Opportunity statements promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (with examples)
1. They can promote equity in hiring
Employers can more actively encourage and support applications from disabled, Black, or other marginalized people in order to have a more equitable hiring process—within their EEO statements, in the job description, and in interviews.
“Many people—especially those who are multiply marginalized—often feel that it's not appropriate or possible to apply for a variety of jobs," says Lydia Brown, a disability justice advocate and consultant.
“Even if a particular company does not intend to maliciously discriminate or exclude, it creates a real problem when your job posting doesn't actually make itself clearly welcoming to people who might not otherwise have thought about applying," says Brown, who is disabled, nonbinary, and East Asian.
For organizations that serve or support a group of people in particular, it can be useful to specifically encourage applicants with those lived experiences to apply to the job. For example, an organization targeting people in poverty should specifically encourage those with lived experiences of poverty. Organizations supporting people who are formerly incarcerated may want to make clear that people with former convictions are encouraged to apply.
“It sends a strong message when that company affirmatively states that they encourage people from a particular community or from multiple marginalized communities to consider applying," Brown says. The Massachusetts Law Reform Institute does that this way:
MLRI is an equal opportunity employer. We value a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture. We believe that having a staff, board, and volunteers with diverse personal and professional backgrounds and lived experience enhances our ability to meet our mission and creates an environment where all members of our community can thrive. We strongly encourage applications from people of color, immigrants, women, persons with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ community, people with lived experience of poverty and/or racism, and people from underrepresented and historically marginalized groups.
(from posting here)
2. They can help to ensure access
While EEO statements explain antidiscrimination law, they can also provide necessary information to support disabled applicants who might not otherwise have the information or tools needed to apply.
“We need to move beyond compliance,” says Andraéa LaVant, a communications consultant and inclusion specialist. “At this point, the ADA is 30 years old. It should be a no-brainer that you're abiding by the law. That's the bare minimum and truly inclusive companies need to move beyond that."
Especially when it comes to creating a company that is supportive of disabled employees, employers should consider and accommodate the different access needs of potential applicants. While language around accessibility is important in the EEO statement, a more inclusive employer thinks about accessibility across all aspects of a hiring process and a job itself, like this example from GitHub:
GitHub is made up of people from a wide variety of backgrounds and lifestyles. We embrace diversity and invite applications from people of all walks of life. We don't discriminate against employees or applicants based on gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, race, religion, age, national origin, citizenship, disability, pregnancy status, veteran status, or any other differences. Also, if you have a disability, please let us know if there's any way we can make the interview process better for you; we're happy to accommodate!
Employers who want to actively encourage disabled people to apply should also include a clear contact (phone or email address) for applicants to reach out to regarding accommodations and access needs. Information about accommodation requests should be clearly marked and easy to find. Here’s how Facebook invites disabled applicants to reach out for accommodations:
Facebook is proud to be an Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer. We do not discriminate based upon race, religion, color, national origin, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, reproductive health decisions, or related medical conditions), sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, status as a protected veteran, status as an individual with a disability, genetic information, political views or activity, or other applicable legally protected characteristics. You may view our Equal Employment Opportunity notice here. We also consider qualified applicants with criminal histories, consistent with applicable federal, state and local law. You may view Facebook's Pay Transparency Policy, Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law notice, and Notice to Applicants for Employment and Employees by clicking on their corresponding links. Additionally, Facebook participates in the E-Verify program in certain locations, as required by law.
Facebook is committed to providing reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities and disabled veterans in our job application procedures. If you need assistance or an accommodation due to a disability, you may contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ensuring equal access outside EEO statements
Other factors, outside the EEO Statement itself can support disabled applicants. For example, making sure the job information is readable with a screen reader for visually impaired candidates, including information about telework options, and ensuring that the interview site is wheelchair-accessible are hugely significant for disabled people and can be overlooked by hiring managers who are non-disabled. Employers should include information about the working conditions and any physical requirements, and should think twice about including job requirements like the ability to lift 50 pounds or own and drive a vehicle, which can unnecessarily exclude disabled people. Here's a good example from Disability Rights Washington of what that sounds like:
People with disabilities, Black, indigenous, and people of color, formerly institutionalized or incarcerated, and those from other oppressed groups and all protected classes are strongly encouraged to apply. Disability Rights Washington looks forward to reviewing all applicants, including applicants who have concerns about how accepting this job could affect their eligibility for Medicaid or other programs. DRW values diversity of culture, disability and other life experiences, and is an equal opportunity employer by choice. We do not discriminate on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, national origin, religion, race, color, citizenship, veteran status, or disability. We endorse and support the intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and are committed to providing reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities who are applicants or employees who need accommodations.
(from posting here)
“Unless you're a truck driver, or something like that, do you really need to lift 50 pounds to do the essential functions of the job?,” says LaVant. “It's really about being clear in your job description about what is essential, and making it clear that you've already thought about creating an inclusive space.”
*Editor's note: Some people prefer the language “person with a disability” to describe themselves. Others, including sources in this article, prefer “disabled person.” This article has used the identity-first language of “disabled person” throughout because of the sources’ preferences. Always ask a person their preference.
About our sources
Andraéa LaVant is founder and president of LaVant Consulting, Inc., a social impact communications firm that offers cutting-edge corporate development and content marketing for brands and nonprofits. LCI’s specialty is helping brands “speak disability with confidence.” Prior to establishing LaVant Consulting, Inc., she led disability inclusion efforts for Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital. She currently serves as the impact producer for Netflix’s feature-length documentary, Crip Camp, where she is charged with leading the campaign’s efforts to promote understanding of disability as a social justice issue and build across lines of difference.
Lydia X. Z. Brown is an advocate for disability justice focused on addressing and ending interpersonal and state violence targeting disabled people at the margins of the margins. They are Policy Counsel for the Privacy & Data Project at the Center for Democracy & Technology; Director of Policy, Advocacy, & External Affairs at the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network; Founder and Volunteer Director of the Fund for Community Reparations for Autistic People of Color's Interdependence, Survival, & Empowerment; and Adjunct Lecturer in Disability Studies for the Department of English at Georgetown University.