The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) is known for fighting the good fight on behalf of those discriminated against in the workplace. Though the Commission investigates and, in some instances, files suit against employers who violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, they are also charged with the task of evaluating possible work conditions that could explain the troubling rates of unemployment among certain populations.
According to Data.Gov:
As part of its mandate under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires periodic reports from public and private employers, and unions and labor organizations which indicate the composition of their work forces by sex and by race/ethnic category.
In keeping with the Civil Rights Act, job applicant data collection, also known as the “Voluntary EEOC Questionnaire,” is used to analyze trends of minority employment and maintain compliance with “recordkeeping requirements of the nondiscrimination laws and rules.” An example of its applied use might be, “of all applications received for work in managerial positions, 39% were minority candidates, but “company x” only hired 3% minority candidates.”
Many employers have gone to the internet for the purpose of vetting potential hires through human resources web forms and applications. At the last step of the web form or application, the employer sincerely asks the job applicant to voluntarily fill out an EEOC questionnaire and states that the data is confidential and will “not be made available to the hiring manager.” As expected, the questions are related to race, gender, disability, military service and other such criteria. An important question is whether the employer asked for the race of the applicant on the employer’s application.
No one should have any problem stating their race, right? Some applicants are proud to do so. But just maybe, some people have reservations about such questions. Questions of race are suspect on job application forms. Why should that be important? It potentially could be perceived by the applicant that “race” is an important qualifier to the employer. An applicant may out right refuse to fill out the form because it is voluntary. They may choose the race option statistically most likely to be hired, or pick the option which states “I do not wish to disclose.” Further, if the applicant does not fill out the questionnaire, there is a chance that the hiring manager could take the applicant’s refusal into consideration when making the final decision for hiring.
According to the EEOC, self identifying data that is voluntarily given by the job applicant does not go to the hiring manager. It is instead taken by the potential employer for submission to the EEOC. Is that a reasonable expectation? Once an applicant gives racial identifying information the employer has it for his or her use.
As the EEOC analyzes collected data, the question is whether skipped or false responses skew the data.
The EEOC only analyzes the data at high levels. For example the data would be examined to determine employment practices of companies holding government contracts. The purpose would be to determine whether such contractors are in compliance with federal standards prohibiting employment discrimination.
Any individual should be able to go to the EEOC website or Data.gov and view “Voluntary EEOC Questionnaire” data. Sadly, this information is not available to the public. The only statistics available are those that show how many women and minorities work in the public and private sectors.
In order to close the social and economic gaps such data is necessary.
It would be beneficial for the public to know the applicants’ ethnicity in order to compare the number hired with those who were not. For example, Industry #1 received 60% minority applications in the year 2010. Of those 60% only 10% of the minority applicant pool was hired.
Of course the business community would be against any aspect of such an initiative, as was the case when the EEOC was established. More accountability is needed, not less. Minority unemployment is double the rate of whites; in some areas like Washington, D.C. for example, African American unemployment alone is at 50 percent. How can the ills in our employment system be corrected without having data necessary to make an informed assessment?