EEOC Office of Legal Counsel staff members wrote the following informal discussion letter in response to an inquiry from a member of the public. This letter is intended to provide an informal discussion of the noted issue and does not constitute an official opinion of the Commission.
Title VII: Affirmative Action
April 26, 2007
This elaborates on our April 28, 2006 letter to you regarding the application of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to employment advertising. Specifically, you asked whether Title VII permits colleges or universities to state in job advertisements that women and minorities are “encouraged” – or in some cases, “especially encouraged” – to apply.
We commented that job advertisements typically should not indicate a preference based on race, sex, or ethnicity (see 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(b) & 29 C.F.R. § 1604.5). We noted that there are circumstances under which focused recruiting is used in order to eliminate barriers to employment opportunity and attract a more diverse applicant pool. We also noted that the legality of a particular practice cannot be assessed outside the context of particular facts that have been fully investigated.
Of course, there are different ways to develop a diverse applicant pool and particular circumstances will determine which methods are both lawful and efficacious. You suggested that a way for employers to signal that they welcome applications from all individuals without regard to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, but without indicating a preference for any group, would be to use language such as the following: “Men and women, and members of all racial and ethnic groups, are encouraged to apply.” We agree, and such a statement is lawful regardless of the surrounding circumstances, even if an employer had no need to diversify its applicant pool.
We hope this information has been helpful. Please note that this letter does not constitute an opinion or interpretation of the EEOC within the meaning of section 713(b) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-12(b).
Peggy R. Mastroianni
Associate Legal Counsel
This page was last modified on June 4, 2007.
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