Most countries around the world have laws and rules requiring organizations to treat employees and potential employees fairly and without discrimination. In other words, respect in the workplace is enforced by law. This is commonly described as providing ‘equal employment opportunity’ (‘EEO’). In this article, we look at how EEO is defined within the law and what this means for international recruitment and human resource management.
Note, this is intended as general information. For legal advice related to your specific situation, you should seek out professional assistance.
What does EEO stand for (Equal Employment Opportunity)
The concept of ‘Equal Employment Opportunity’ (sometimes called ‘Equal Employment Opportunities‘ or ‘EEO’) is about giving everyone a fair chance both in applying for a job, and in their treatment once in the job. In a 2018 Gallup poll, 61 percent of Americans supported EEO policies.
EEO is captured in laws in different countries in slightly different ways. In the United States, the primary legislation for protecting EEO is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964. This prohibits discrimination on the basis of:
It also prohibits discrimination based on association with another individual with those characteristics.
It applies to employers who have more than 15 employees for each working day in more than 20 calendar weeks in the current or preceding year. The Civil Rights Act 1964 has been supplemented with other legislation that prohibits discrimination in the US, including, on the basis of:
Collectively, we might refer to these EEO characteristics listed in legislation as ‘protected characteristics’.
Note that there are a range of exceptions to the application of EEO laws and regulations in the United States. In addition to organizational size limits, there are exceptions pertaining to the federal government, federally-recognized Native American groups, religious groups, and non-profit private membership organizations. Furthermore, the law recognizes a concept of ‘affirmative action’ or ‘positive discrimination’, which seeks to increase the likelihood of employees of historically disadvantaged groups being hired and retained.
How Equal Employment Opportunity Can Be Implemented in Recruitment
The United States EEO Commission sets out some useful best practice advice for EEO in recruitment and human resource management. As a company following these steps, you should:
Equal Employment Opportunity In the Employment Relationship
EEO practices aren’t just relevant for recruitment, they need to be applied to the employment relationship itself. Recommended actions for human resources include:
Eliminating Harassment In the Workplace
In addition to EEO measures that should be taken by the company to protect their potential recruits and workforce, it is important to also have policies in place to prevent harassment in the workplace on the basis of protected characteristics, or any other factors. This is both about following legal requirements, as well as ensuring your staff are satisfied and engaged in their workplace. An anti-harassment policy should include:
Equal Employment Opportunity and International Differences
The best practice examples listed above related to US laws on EEO. Note, however, that while EEO is common across the world, it often takes on a different form in different countries. One area of substantial difference is in cases of ‘affirmative action’ or ‘positive discrimination’ laws and rules. Examples include:
Equal Employment Opportunity and Overseas Expansion
When establishing your business in an overseas market, you will need to make sure that your enterprise complies with the EEO laws and regulations that apply in that new market. As is clear from the discussion so far, these laws are complex and can be significantly different in other jurisdictions: For example, a US enterprise cannot simply expand into a new country and apply the EEO rules that apply in the United States.
Equal Employment Opportunity and International Recruiters
A specialist international recruiter, hired to work for your company, will develop a recruitment strategy in a target country and ensure that the process is entirely compliant with local EEO laws. This includes:
Four Ways a Global PEO Can Help With Equal Employment Opportunity
When expanding into a new overseas market, it is often advisable to engage a Global Professional Employer Organization (‘PEO’) to engage employees on your behalf. This can be a quicker and more cost-efficient mechanism for expansion than setting up your own legal entity (such as a subsidiary), in the targeted country.
One key advantage of engaging a PEO is that you do not need to have full knowledge of the compliance and cultural environment of the country that you are expanding into. The PEO ensures full global compliance. By engaging a PEO they can ensure that:
It is crucial that, in an international expansion, all enterprises pay attention to EEO compliance in the countries they are expanding into. While there are general principles that remain similar internationally, there are also regional differences.
New Horizons Global Partners is an Equal Opportunity Employer (read more here) In supporting recruitment, and when acting as a PEO, it ensures that all employment decisions are based on the needs of the business, job requirements and the individual’s qualifications, without regard to race, color, religion or beliefs, national or ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, relationship or marital status, or any other characteristic protected by law in the countries in which they operate. New Horizons Global Partners will not allow discrimination or harassment based on any of these characteristics.