Overview

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases). Most labor unions and employment agencies are also covered.

The laws apply to all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits.

Authority & Role

The EEOC has the authority to investigate charges of discrimination against employers who are covered by the law. Our role in an investigation is to fairly and accurately assess the allegations in the charge and then make a finding. If we find that discrimination has occurred, we will try to settle the charge. If we aren’t successful, we have the authority to file a lawsuit to protect the rights of individuals and the interests of the public and litigates a small percentage of these cases. When deciding to file a lawsuit, the EEOC considers several factors such as the strength of the evidence, the issues in the case, and the wider impact the lawsuit could have on the EEOC’s efforts to combat workplace discrimination.

We also work to prevent discrimination before it occurs through outreach, education and technical assistance programs.

The EEOC provides leadership and guidance to federal agencies on all aspects of the federal government’s equal employment opportunity program. EEOC assures federal agency and department compliance with EEOC regulations, provides technical assistance to federal agencies concerning EEO complaint adjudication, monitors and evaluates federal agencies’ affirmative employment programs, develops and distributes federal sector educational materials and conducts training for stakeholders, provides guidance and assistance to our Administrative Judges who conduct hearings on EEO complaints, and adjudicates appeals from administrative decisions made by federal agencies on EEO complaints.

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Location

We carry out our work through our headquarters offices in Washington, D.C. and through 53 field offices serving every part of the nation.

Small Business Requirements

As a small business owner and an employer you may have legal responsibilities under the federal employment anti-discrimination laws.

Below you will find the information you need to determine whether the anti-discrimination laws apply to your particular business and if they do, what you need to know!

Do the federal employment anti-discrimination laws apply to my business?

It depends on how many employees your business has:

If you have at least one employee: You are covered by the law that requires employers to provide equal pay for equal work to male and female employees.

If you have 15 to 19 employees: You are covered by the laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, disability and genetic information (including family medical history). You are also covered by the law that requires employers to provide equal pay for equal work.

If you have 20 or more employees: You are covered by the laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability and genetic information (including family medical history). You are also covered by the law that requires employers to provide equal pay for equal work.

State and/or local employment discrimination laws may also apply to your business. State and local government websites may have information about these laws.

See also:

Who is an “employee” under federal employment discrimination laws?

Your Legal Responsibilities If the Federal Employment Anti-Discrimination Laws Apply to Your Business

Equal Pay for Equal Work

You must provide equal pay to male and female employees who perform the same work unless you can justify a pay difference under the law.

Don’t Discriminate/Harass Because of Race, Color, Religion, Sex, National Origin, Age, Disability or Genetic Information

You cannot discriminate against or harass applicants, employees or former employees because of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information (including family medical history).

Policies/Practices with Negative Effect on Race, Color, Religion, Sex, National Origin or Disabilities

You cannot use employment policies or practices that have a negative effect on applicants or employees of a particular race, color, religion, sex or national origin or applicants or employees with disabilities unless the policies or practices are related to the job and necessary for the operation of your business.

Policies/Practices with Negative Effect on Age 40 or Older

You cannot use employment policies or practices that have a negative effect on applicants or employees who are 40 or older unless the policies or practices are based on a reasonable factor other than age.

Provide Required Reasonable Accommodations

You may be required to provide reasonable accommodations (changes to the way things are normally done at work)¬†because of an applicant’s or employee’s religious beliefs or disability.

Prohibited Requests for Medical or Genetic Information

In general, you cannot request medical or genetic information from applicants. You may request medical or genetic information from employees only in limited circumstances.

If you legally obtain medical or genetic information, you must keep it confidential, with very limited exceptions, and in a separate medical file.

Don’t Retaliate

You cannot retaliate against (punish) an applicant, employee or former employee for reporting discrimination, participating in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit or opposing discrimination (for example, threatening to file a charge or complaint of discrimination).

Inform Employees About the Laws

You must display a poster at your business that describes the federal employment discrimination laws.

Retain Employment Records

You must retain any employment records, such as applications, personnel, payroll and benefits records, as required by law.

Report Workforce Data

If you have 100 or more employees, or if you are a federal contractor with at least 50 employees and at least $50,000 in government contracts, you are required to complete and submit an EEO-1 Report to the EEOC and the U.S. Department of Labor every year.

The EEO-1 Report is a government form that requests data about the ethnicity, race and gender of your workforce.

See also:

Small Business Assistance

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Information about a specific discrimination topic? We’ve categorized EEOC material for small businesses categorized by topic, so you can find what you need quickly and easily. ¬†

We’re here to help! We can answer questions, train your staff and help you resolve charges of discrimination. Give us a call, we’re here to assist you, and many of our services are free!

We can answer questions.

EEOC staff are available to answer questions about the laws enforced by the EEOC, explain the EEOC charge process, and provide information about employment discrimination. For example, we can answer:

These discussions will not be shared with EEOC staff who investigate, resolve, and litigate charges of discrimination.

While we will make every effort to assist you, there are some questions that we can’t answer. We can’t provide legal advice or representation on a particular issue, and we can’t certify that your business is an equal employment opportunity employer. In addition, we may be limited in the amount of information that we can provide if a discrimination charge is pending on the matter you wish to discuss. For example, we can’t answer:

We can provide training.

We can train you and your employees about rights and responsibilities under federal employment discrimination laws.

If you would like to request training on a particular topic, let us know; we can tailor our training to meet your needs.

We can help you resolve charges of discrimination.

Despite your best efforts, a charge of discrimination may be filed against your business. This does not mean that you have broken the law. A charge is a complaint of discrimination, not a determination that discrimination has occurred.

We may invite you to resolve the charge informally through mediation. Consider participating. Mediation is a great way to resolve disputes quickly and confidentially, at no cost.

See also:

Small Business Resources

A one-page fact sheet that provides a shortened, user-friendly overview of the legal obligations of small businesses under the federal employment anti-discrimination laws.¬† It also provides information about other EEOC resources available for small business owners.¬† The “Preventing Discrimination is Good Business” Fact sheet is available in 30 different languages.

EEOC Glossary for Small Businesses

Age Discrimination

Charge of Discrimination

Charge Process

Color Discrimination

Complaint Policy/Complaint Procedure

Disability

Disability Accommodation

Disability Discrimination

Discrimination

EEOC

EEO-1 Report

Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPAs)

Federal Employment Discrimination Laws

Field Office

Genetic Information

Genetic Information Discrimination

Harassment

Investigation

Liability

Mediation

National Origin Discrimination

Officer of the Day

Pay Discrimination

Position Statement

Pregnancy Discrimination

Race Discrimination

Reasonable Accommodation (Disability)

Reasonable Accommodation (Religion)

Religious Accommodation

Religious Discrimination

Retaliation

Sex Discrimination

Sexual Harassment

Small Business Liaisons

Small Business Task Force

Age Discrimination: Treating an applicant, employee or former employee who is 40 years old or older less favorably because of his or her age or using an employment policy or practice that has a negative effect on applicants or employees who are 40 or older and is not based on a reasonable factor other than age.

Charge of Discrimination: A formal employment discrimination complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a Fair Employment Practices Agency (FEPA), a state or local agency responsible for enforcing state or local employment discrimination laws.

Charge Process: The process by which the EEOC handles charges of discrimination. The EEOC will notify you that a charge has been filed against your business and request an explanation for the claims in the charge (a Position Statement ) or responses to specific questions in a Request for Information. The EEOC may ask if you would like to mediate or settle the charge. If the charge is not resolved, the EEOC will continue its investigation. The EEOC will review the information obtained during the investigation to determine whether discrimination occurred. If the EEOC determines that discrimination did not occur, the EEOC will dismiss the charge and give the person who filed the charge permission to file a lawsuit. If the EEOC determines that discrimination did occur, it will invite you to conciliate the charge. If conciliation is unsuccessful, the EEOC may file a lawsuit or give the person who filed the charge permission to file a lawsuit.

Color Discrimination: Treating an applicant, employee or former employee less favorably because of his or her skin color, pigmentation, complexion, shade or tone. Color discrimination also includes using an employment policy or practice that has a negative effect on applicants or employees of a particular color and that is not related to the job and necessary to the operation of the business.

Complaint Policy/Complaint Procedure: A policy or procedure that informs employees how to file an internal discrimination complaint. Small businesses that have these types of policies or procedures should distribute them to employees, include them in employee handbooks and post them in the employee break room, online or in other places where employees can easily find them.

Disability: A physical or mental disorder, illness or condition (an impairment) that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record (past history) of a disability, or being regarded as having a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor.

Disability Accommodation: A change to the way things are normally done at work to help an applicant or employee with a disability apply for a job, perform job duties or enjoy job benefits. For example, an employer may provide a sign language interpreter for a deaf applicant, permit an employee with diabetes to take regular breaks to eat and monitor blood sugar and insulin levels, or allow an employee with cancer to rearrange her schedule around radiation or chemotherapy treatments. You are not required to provide a disability accommodation if it would result in significant difficulty or expense, based on your resources and the operation of your business. In addition, you are not required to provide a disability accommodation that requires you to change the fundamental duties of a job, lower production or performance standards or tolerate misconduct.

Disability Discrimination: Treating an applicant, employee or former employee less favorably because the person or someone the person associates with has a disability, had a disability in the past or is believed to have a disability. Disability discrimination also includes failing to provide a disability accommodation to an applicant or employee, unless the accommodation would require significant difficulty or expense, changing fundamental job duties, lowering production or performance standards or tolerating misconduct. In addition, disability discrimination includes using an employment policy or practice that has a negative effect on an applicant or employee with a disability or a group of applicants or employees with disabilities and that does not reflect what is actually required to do the job.

Discrimination: Treating a person or a group of people less favorably. Federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, disability, age (40 years old or older), genetic information (including family medical history) or in retaliation for filing a charge or complaint of discrimination, participating in a discrimination proceeding (such as an investigation or lawsuit) or opposing discrimination.

EEOC: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces the federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, disability, age (40 years old or older) and genetic information(including family medical history). The laws enforced by the EEOC also prohibit retaliation. The EEOC is a bipartisan Commission led by five Commissioners who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The EEOC has a headquarters office in Washington, D.C. and 53 field offices throughout the United States.

EEO-1 Report: A government form that requests data about workforce ethnicity, race and gender. Employers with at least 100 employees and federal contractors with at least 50 employees and at least $50,000 in government contracts are required to complete and submit the EEO-1 form to the EEOC and the Department of Labor every year.

Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPAs): State and local agencies responsible for enforcing state and local employment discrimination laws.

Federal Employment Discrimination Laws: Laws that apply in every state that prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, disability, age (40 or older) and genetic information (including family medical history). These laws also prohibit retaliation. These laws include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008.

Field Office:¬†One of the EEOC’s 53 offices located across the country.¬†Field offices¬†accept,¬†investigate,¬†resolve¬†and¬†litigate¬†charges of employment discrimination . Field offices also conduct¬†outreach and training.

Genetic Information:¬†Information¬†about an applicant’s, employee’s or former employee’s genetic tests; a family member’s genetic tests; family medical history; requests for, or receipt of, genetic services; or genetic information about a fetus or an embryo.

Genetic Information Discrimination: Treating an applicant, employee or former employee less favorably because of genetic information (including family medical history). For example, an employer may not refuse to hire an applicant because cancer runs in her family.

Harassment: Unwelcome conduct that is so frequent or severe that it objectively creates a hostile or offensive work environment or results in a negative employment action (such as being fired or demoted). For example, assault, threats, insults or offensive graffiti may be illegal harassment. Federal law prohibits harassment based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, disability, age (40 years old or older) or genetic information (including family medical history).

Investigation: The process by which an employer and/or the EEOC determine whether illegal discrimination has occurred. The employer and/or the EEOC may interview the applicant, employee or former employee who complained about discrimination; the person or people allegedly responsible for the discrimination; and other employees who may have seen or have information about the alleged discrimination. The employer and/or the EEOC may also request and review relevant documents, such as policies, applications, interview notes or employee files.

Liability: Legal responsibility for illegal activity, such as discrimination.

Mediation: A free, informal, confidential process to resolve disputes .

National Origin Discrimination: Treating an applicant, employee or former employee less favorably because the person or someone the person associates with comes from a particular country, has a foreign accent, appears to have a particular ethnic background. National origin discrimination also includes using an employment policy or practice that has a negative effect on applicants or employees of a particular national origin and that is not related to the job and necessary to the operation of the business.

Officer of the Day: EEOC staff available to provide information about the laws enforced by the EEOC. Conversations with Officers of the Day will not be shared with EEOC staff who investigate, resolve, and litigate charges of discrimination.

Pay Discrimination: Paying an employee or a group of employees less based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information (including family medical history). Pay discrimination also includes paying an employee or group of employees less because they filed a discrimination charge or complaint or participated in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Position Statement:¬†An employer’s response to a charge of discrimination, providing specific, factual explanations for the claims in the charge.

Pregnancy Discrimination: Treating an applicant, employee or former employee less favorably because of pregnancy, past pregnancy, potential or intended pregnancy, childbirth or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. Pregnancy discrimination also includes using an employment policy or practice that has a negative effect on women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions and that is not related to the job and necessary to the operation of the business.

Race Discrimination: Treating an applicant, employee or former employee less favorably because the person or someone the person associates with is a particular raceor has personal characteristics associated with a particular race. Race discrimination also includes using an employment policy or practice that has a negative effect on applicants or employees of a particular race and that is not related to the job and necessary to the operation of the business.

Reasonable Accommodation (Disability): See Disability Accommodation

Reasonable Accommodation (Religion): See Religious Accommodation

Religious Accommodation:¬†A¬†change to the way things are normally done at work¬†to allow an applicant or employee to practice or observe his or her religion. For example, a small business may permit an employee to swap shifts with a colleague so he can observe a religious holiday or¬†grant an exception to a dress or grooming policy¬†that conflicts with an employee’s religious beliefs or practices. You are not required to provide religious accommodations that impose¬†more than minimal costs or disruptions¬†for your business. In addition, you are not required to provide a religious accommodation if it would conflict with another law or regulation.

Religious Discrimination: Treating an applicant, employee or former employee less favorably because of his or her religious beliefs or association with a person of a particular religion. Religious discrimination also includes failing to provide a religious accommodation, unless the accommodation would impose more than minimal costs or disruptions for your business. In addition, religious discrimination includes using an employment policy or practice that has a negative effect on members of a particular religion and that is not job related and necessary to the operation of the business.

Retaliation: Treating an applicant, employee or former employee less favorably because he or she made an internal discrimination complaint, filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC or another agency, participated in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit (for example, served as a witness), or opposed discrimination (for example, threatened to file a charge of discrimination). All of the laws enforced by the EEOC prohibit retaliation.

Sex Discrimination: Treating an applicant, employee or former employee less favorably because of his or her sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity) or because of his or her connection with an organization or group that is associated with people of a particular sex. Sex discrimination also includes using an employment policy or practice that has a negative effect on men or women and that is not related to the job and necessary to the operation of the business.

Sexual Harassment: Unwelcome conduct or comments based on sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity) that are so frequent or severe that they objectively create a hostile or offensive work environment or result in a negative employment action (such as being fired or demoted). Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favors, offensive comments about men or women (including comments that are not sexual in nature) or other offensive conduct based on sex.

Small Business Liaisons: EEOC staff who are responsible for helping small businesses understand and comply with federal employment discrimination laws. The Small Business Liaisons, who are located in EEOC field offices across the country, provide information about employment discrimination, answer questions and conduct outreach and training for small businesses. Conversations with Small Business Liaisons will not be shared with EEOC staff who investigate, resolve, and litigate charges of discrimination.

Small Business Task Force: An EEOC work group, led by Commissioner Constance S. Barker, created to help small businesses understand and comply with federal employment discrimination laws.

Equal Employment Office Policy – Broker Course

Fair Housing Act – Real Estate Training Institute

Newsroom

Welcome to the EEOC’s Virtual Newsroom, which offers a wide range of information and materials on the Commission’s history, functions, procedures, programs, actions and staff, on the statutes we enforce, and on related research, data and statistics. We encourage everyone to browse and search through our continually updated Press Kit, which provides extensive background and context for virtually any question.

To contact The Office of Communications, please phone 202-663-4191 or send an e-mail to newsroom@eeoc.gov. Please note, this e-mailbox is intended for reporters, news producers, those writing for news publication and broadcasts, and other people working on news programs or stories.

If you are a private citizen seeking EEOC information, please call 1-800-669-4000 or e-mail info@eeoc.gov.

Press Kit

Recent Releases

Party City to Pay $39,000 To Settle EEOC Pregnancy and Disability Discrimination Suit¬†–¬†7/12/2019¬†

North Liberty Police Department to Pay $12,000 to Resolve EEOC Discrimination Finding¬†–¬†7/12/2019¬†

EEOC Sues Powerlink for Disability Discrimination¬†–¬†7/11/2019¬†

EEOC‚ÄôS Las Vegas Office to Host Mediation Matters! Employer Roundtable on July 26¬†–¬†7/10/2019¬†

EEOC Sues Birchez Associates and Rondout Properties Management for Sex Harassment¬†–¬†7/10/2019¬†

Steamfitters Local No. 475 Settles EEOC Recordkeeping Suit¬†–¬†7/9/2019¬†

Kroger to Pay $40,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit¬†–¬†7/8/2019¬†

U.S. EEOC Opens Registration for San Diego 2-Day EEO Seminar for Private and Public Employers¬†–¬†7/8/2019¬†

EEOC Sues Citizens Bank for Disability Bias¬†–¬†7/2/2019¬†

MedStar Health / Medstar Ambulatory Services Agree to Conciliate EEOC Disability Bias Charge¬†–¬†7/1/2019¬†

EEOC Sues Valley Tool for Disability Discrimination and Retaliation¬†–¬†7/1/2019¬†

Global Ministries Sued by EEOC for Retaliation¬†–¬†6/28/2019¬†

EEOC Sues Proctor Financial for Retaliation¬†–¬†6/28/2019¬†

EEOC Celebrates The 20th Anniversary of Its Mediation Program – Pittsburgh¬†–¬†6/27/2019¬†

EEOC Celebrates The 20th Anniversary of Its Mediation Program¬†–¬†6/27/2019¬†

EEOC Sues Rogers Behavioral Health for Disability Discrimination¬†–¬†6/27/2019¬†

Skyline Ultd Settles EEOC Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Charge¬†–¬†6/26/2019¬†

EEOC Sues George W. Morosani and Associates, LLC for Retaliation¬†–¬†6/26/2019¬†

EEOC Sues Hunter Auto & Wrecker Service for Sexual Harassment¬†–¬†6/26/2019¬†

EEOC Sues Cassone Leasing for Pregnancy Discrimination¬†–¬†6/26/2019¬†