What Are Your Equal Employment Opportunity Responsibilities?

Most employers are required to comply with equal employment opportunity responsibilities. These responsibilities ensure that you do not discriminate against employees because of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws related to workforce discrimination. The EEOC has resources where you can learn more about your responsibilities as an employer.

Your equal employment opportunity responsibilities

EEO laws apply to employers with at least 15 employees (20 employees for age discrimination). EEO compliance can result in increased employee happiness. Not following you responsibilities can lead to legal expenses.

Below are your equal employment opportunity responsibilities. Keep in mind, these responsibilities only apply to federal laws. Your state might have stricter responsibilities.

Make fair employment decisions

You should not make employment decisions based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. You should treat all your employees equally with regards to these qualities. Equal treatment applies to all aspects of employment, including hiring, promoting, and firing employees.


Let’s pretend you have an open position that you need to fill. You cannot refuse applications from people in a particular age group. You should consider all applicants, despite their ages.

Compliance best practice

When you make employment decisions, you should carefully document why you made each decision. If an employee would ever accuse you of discrimination, you could show the documentation that explains your decision.

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Grant reasonable accommodations

Employees can ask for reasonable accommodations for medical or religious reasons. Reasonable accommodations are modifications that you provide to employees so they can continue their work. You must provide reasonable accommodations to employees as long as they do not cause undue hardship, meaning the accommodation would cause you significant difficulty or expense.


For example, you hire an employee who has diabetes. The worker needs additional employee breaks to eat and check their sugar and insulin levels. You determine that the extra breaks will not cause you undue hardship, so you grant them to the employee.

Compliance best practice

When employees ask for accommodations, listen to them. Research the difficulty and expenses of the requested accommodations. If the accommodations are reasonable, create a plan to implement them. If the accommodations are not reasonable, document why you are unable to grant them.

Craft unbiased policies

When you create policies for your business, make sure you don’t disproportionately exclude people with particular characteristics.


For example, you create a dress code for your employees. The dress code prohibits any ethnic or religious attire. Your dress code could be seen as discrimination because it prevents employees from practicing their religion. If an employee asks for a reasonable accommodation, you should permit it unless it causes you undue hardship.

Compliance best practice

When you create policies, you should record them. A good place to keep your business’s policies is in an employee handbook. Employees should have access to the employee handbook so they can easily look up your policies. Documenting policies in an employee handbook also helps keep you accountable for your equal employment opportunity responsibilities.

Stop workplace harassment

Employees should not be harassed because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. Employees should also not be harassed if they have complained about discrimination. The harasser can be a supervisor, a co-worker, or a customer.


Harassment can include graffiti, slurs, offensive comments, sexual advances, or other verbal or physical conduct. It is also your responsibility to handle harassment that does not happen at your physical business location, but is connected to your workplace. For example, if one employee harasses another employee while driving to meet a client.

Compliance best practice

Create a policy that addresses harassment. Let employees know how they can report harassment. Also, develop a process for disciplining and stopping harassment. A good place to put your harassment policy is in your employee handbook.

Provide equal pay

Give employees who do the same work equal pay. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 says you must pay men and women equal pay for equal work. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 says you should not base an employee’s wages on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Instead of personal characteristics, you should base wage differences on factors of internal equity, such as seniority, merit, quality of work, education, training, and experience.


Imagine that you have two employees who do the same tasks: one man and one woman. Because they perform equal tasks, you should pay them equally. Their sexes should not be a factor when you set their wages.

Now imagine that one of the employees receives an advanced certification related to the tasks. Because of the certification, you could justify paying that employee a greater wage. But, once again, sex should not be a factor when determining the employee’s wages.

Compliance best practice

When you set your employees’ wages, document how you came to your decision. If an employee ever accuses you of wage discrimination, you can present your records.

Respond to discrimination complaints

You should quickly respond to any discrimination complaints you receive. As the boss, it is your job to prevent and stop discrimination.


For example, an employee believes they receive fewer projects because of their race. The employee talks to you about this problem. Carefully listen to the employee’s complaint. Evaluate the problem. Then, act quickly. Implement any necessary changes or disciplinary actions to stop the discrimination. Waiting to handle the complaint only leaves more time for the employee to be discriminated against.

Compliance best practice

You should have a policy for responding to discrimination complaints. This policy should include the disciplinary actions you will take. Also, consider creating a policy for protecting discrimination victims.

Display discrimination laws

All employers covered by EEO laws must hang a poster that details federal employment discrimination laws.


You might have a bulletin board or other area where you hang required employment posters. This area would be an appropriate place to display a poster on discrimination laws.

Compliance best practice

The poster should be in an area that employees can see. Employees should know their rights when it comes to discrimination. The poster also helps keep you accountable to your equal employment opportunity responsibilities.

Keep employment records

Follow payroll record retention requirements per the IRS. You should keep all personnel records according to their instruction.


Records you should keep on file include applications, wage determinations, W-4 Forms, performance evaluations, and disciplinary actions. The length of time you must keep records depends on the record type.

Compliance best practice

Keep employment records in a secure place. This might be a locked filing cabinet. Or, you could use a cloud software program to keep records electronically.

Our human resources software add-on can help you run your paperless payroll program. Securely store employee records in the cloud. You can also share important documents with your employees. Try the online payroll software for free, and remember to add-on our HR software.

This article has been updated from its original publication date of April 4, 2016.

This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.

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