Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)

Definition

The term Equal Employment Opportunity refers to laws that provide job applicants with certain protections against discrimination in hiring.  Established as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission assists in the protection of employees from discrimination based on color, race, religion, sex or national origin.

Explanation

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the first federal law designed to protect individuals from discrimination based on their color, race, religion, sex (gender) or national origin.  The law seeks to promote equal benefits to all employees, as well as access to jobs and promotional opportunities.  The Equal Opportunity Commission is a federal agency that seeks to promote these opportunities through both administrative and judicial enforcement of civil rights law in addition to providing employers with education and assistance on this topic.

Over time, the list of protected classes grew to include:

  • Gender:  women and men are protected from wage discrimination when performing substantially equal work via the Equal Pay Act of 1963.
  • Age:  individuals aged 40 and over, via the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.
  • Disability:  individuals that possess, or are thought to possess, a disability are protected via the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
  • Military Service:  protects individuals from discrimination based on their military history or effects the battlefield might have on the worker's psyche.
  • Genetics:  individuals are protected from discrimination based on their family history and genetic information via the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008.

Finally, anyone that brings forth charges of discrimination, is part of a discrimination proceeding, or opposes what they believe is an unlawful employment practice, is protected against retaliation.

Related Terms

active job search, age discrimination, affirmative action, applicant pool, Employee Retirement Income Security Act, unemployment discrimination