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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.


September 7, 2005

Dear :

This responds to your August 19, 2005, e-mail to Deidre Flippen, Director of the Office of Research, Information & Planning, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, asking whether Sephardic Jews should be classified as Hispanic or White for purposes of com­pleting the EEO-1 form. This Office has been asked to respond to your inquiry.

Current instructions applicable for completion of the EEO-1 form explain that the EEOC's race/ethnic designations:

[D]o not denote scientific definitions of anthropological origins. For the purposes of this report, an employee may be included in the group to which he or she appears to belong, identifies with, or is regarded in the community as belonging. However, no person should be counted in more than one race/ethnic group.

In this regard, a Jewish employee of Sephardic ancestry may appear to belong more to the White category (as a person whose origin is from among the "original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East"), as opposed to Hispanic (a person who is of "Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture"), des­pite the employee's ancestral connection to Spain.

The current EEO-1 instructions further note that employers "may acquire the race/ethnic information necessary for this report either by visual surveys of the work force, or from post-employment records as to the identity of employees. Eliciting information on the race/ethnic identity of an employee by direct inquiry is not encouraged." As a general rule, an employer's perception of its employees controls how they should be classified on the EEO-1 form. If a Jewish employee of Sephardic ancestry appears Hispanic, s/he may be classified as such; conversely, if the employee appears White, the employee should be included in that category.

On June 11, 2003, the EEOC published in the Federal Register a request for comments regarding a proposed revision to the EEO-1 form, which includes a change to the method for collecting race/ethnicity information. See "Agency Information Collection Activities: Revision of the Employer Information Report (EEO-1) Comment Request," 68 Fed. Reg. 34,965 (June 11, 2003) (Comment Request). In the Comment Request, the Commission proposed the following instruc­tion for collecting the relevant information regarding employee race and ethnicity:

Self-identification is the preferred method of identifying the race and ethnic information necessary for the EEO-1 report. Employers are strongly encouraged to rely on employee self-identification to obtain this information. If self-identification is not feasible, post-employment records or observer identification may be used to obtain this information.

Id. at 34,967. The revision to the EEO-1 remains pending, however, so that the current system of visual observation remains the primary method for the collection of EEO-1 employee data.

I hope this discussion is helpful. If you have any questions, please call Carol R. Miaskoff, Assistant Legal Counsel, at 202-663-4645. Please note that this letter is an informal discussion of the issues you have raised and is not an official opinion of the EEOC.


Peggy R. Mastroianni
Associate Legal Counsel

This page was last modified on April 27, 2007.