Is an EEO Policy Statement Required in Employee Manuals?

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An equal employment opportunity (EEO) policy statement reaffirms your organization’s commitment to fair employment practices. It states your company’s belief that employment decisions should be made strictly on job-related factors and qualifications and not on characteristics such as race, sex, ethnicity, skin color or religion. Employers aren’t required to use their employee handbooks as a medium for disseminating their EEO policy statement; however, it’s in their best interest to do so.

Employee Civil Rights

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 are examples of laws that protect employees’ civil rights. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces these and other laws that prohibit employment discrimination. Organizations that employ 15 or more workers are required to adhere to Title VII and other federal laws; however, many companies that employ fewer than 15 people adhere to the same laws based on their commitment to sound business ethics and social responsibility.

Employee Handbooks

Employee handbooks are the most common place to find an employer’s EEO policy statement. Because employee handbooks reach the entire workforce, it’s reasonable to include the EEO policy statement there. In addition, during new hire orientation, employers have employees acknowledge receipt of written policies, including the EEO policy statement. A copy of the signed acknowledgment goes in each employee’s file as proof they understand the policy and agree to abide by workplace rules that prohibit discrimination.

Required EEO Posters

EEOC mandates official postings of EEO laws throughout the workplace and strongly recommends that the required posters be placed conspicuously throughout the worksite. Conspicuous placement means employee break rooms, in close proximity to the time clock, and at entrances for both employees and applicants. While EEOC doesn’t specifically require that employers publish the EEO policy within employee handbooks, the agency frowns upon employers who don’t make every effort to make the EEOC policy public.

Legal Implications

In EEOC guidance materials, the agency clearly states that employers should make employees aware of their equal rights. In its enforcement guidance regarding supervisor liability, the EEOC states: “An employer should provide every employee with a copy of the policy and complaint procedure, and redistribute it periodically. The policy and complaint procedure should be written in a way that will be understood by all employees in the employer’s workforce. Other measures to ensure effective dissemination of the policy and complaint procedure include posting them in central locations and incorporating them into employee handbooks.” Employers who do not have handbooks or who do not include their EEO policy within their employee handbooks expose their companies to liability for claims based on failure to inform employees of their rights and to prove the company is indeed committed to equal employment opportunity.

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