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EEOC Informal Discussion Letter

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

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: Pre-employment Inquiries

August 14, 2003

Dear Ms. :

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) Office of Legal Counsel is in receipt of your July 15, 2003 inquiry regarding employer requests for job seekers' EEO data on application forms. You expressed your concern that the tone of the employer questionnaires implied that providing such data was required. You suggested that employers be reminded that providing race, sex and ethnic data is optional or, alternatively, that employers be relieved of the responsibility to collect such data because the Federal government can access it through the social security database.

EEOC recognizes that self-identification forms are often tied to an employer's affirmative action efforts. Additionally, EEOC regulations require that when a selection procedure is used, an employer is required to collect and maintain demographic data necessary to determine whether the selection procedures had an adverse impact on protected groups. See Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (UGESP), 29 C.F.R. Part 1607.

While the EEOC's regulations do not state that disclosures of race, ethnic, and gender data to employers are voluntary, the EEOC has long taken such position. Question and Answer 88 of the UGESP interpretive guidance states that wherever a self-identification form is used, the employer should advise the applicant that identification by race, sex or national origin is sought not for employment decisions, but for recordkeeping in compliance with Federal law. Such self-identification forms should be kept separately from the application and should not be a basis for employment decisions; applicants should be so advised.

We note your interesting suggestion that social security numbers be used in collecting EEO data. At this time the Commission has not considered the possible implications of using social security numbers for purposes of EEO requirements, nor are we aware of any such initiatives in the Federal government.

If you wish to pursue allegations of discrimination against particular employers, you may contact the Commission's District Office at .

We hope this information is helpful to you. Please note that this is not an official opinion of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If you have any questions you may reach me or Mary Kay Mauren, Senior Attorney, at (202) 663-4689.

Carol R. Miaskoff
Assistant Legal Counsel

This page was last modified on April 27, 2007.