1. Career Advice
  2. Career development
  3. A glossary on Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)
A glossary on Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)

A glossary on Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)

Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova

  • What is equal employment opportunity?
  • What are the protected classes?
  • How do equal employment opportunity laws protect job applicants?
  • What is the difference between EEO and AA?
  • Key takeaways

Job seekers may come across acronyms like EEO when searching through job postings. A law was put in place to ensure qualified applicants are given impartial consideration when applying for employment. An overview of equal employment opportunity laws and who is protected from workplace discrimination can help job seekers through the recruitment process.

Job seekers will likely encounter the term Equal Employment Opportunity or Equal Opportunity Employer on most job postings they come across. You can usually find it written at the end of a job post, in a separate line. But what exactly does it mean, and how does it affect you in your job hunt? We’ll tell you everything you need to know about equal employment opportunities. 

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What are the federally protected classes

  • Details on how equal employment opportunities affect job seekers 

  • Differences between equal employment opportunities and affirmative action

What is equal employment opportunity?

In 1972, a law was passed that prohibits the discrimination of job seekers and employees in the workplace. The law, called the Equal Employment Act, is applicable to every step of employment. That means that through the hiring process, onboarding, work, and termination, all employees must be treated fairly and the same. 

What are the protected classes?

The Equal Employment Act is based on the idea that discrimination tends to occur more prolifically among specific demographics. The law helps protect those vulnerable populations, appropriately categorized as ‘protected classes’. If you experience workplace discrimination because of or relating to one of the protected classes, the company is breaking federal law and action can be pursued. 

The following is the list of protected classes:

  • Race

  • Color

  • Religion

  • Sex (pregnancy, gender identity, sexual orientation)

  • National origin

  • Disability (visible or not)

  • Age (40 or older)

  • Genetic information (medical history)

How do equal employment opportunity laws protect job applicants?

The most significant impact that EEO has on job seekers is providing equal access to employment opportunities. This includes publicly posting job openings and giving all qualified applicants fair consideration. 

An example would be if two applicants had the same amount of experience and qualifications, but the hiring manager finds out one of them goes to the same church, so that candidate is selected over the other. 

What is the difference between EEO and AA?

EEO refers to employers offering candidates a fair opportunity for employment, while also protecting people from being discriminated against. 

AA stands for affirmative action. It relates to EEO and is sometimes used interchangeably, but the concept is actually different. Affirmative action is more of a response to imbalances and promotes hiring decisions that create an equitable workforce rather than just equal opportunity to join a workforce. 

When a company realizes that it has hired an imbalanced pool—no equal representation of minorities, women, or people with disabilities—it will take affirmative action to correct it and bring more balance into the workforce. 

Interviewing with an equal opportunity employer (EEO) is an essential step in the employment process. Review Career.io’s Interview Preparation tool today to equip yourself with the tools to impress a hiring manager.

Key takeaways

  1. Employment opportunities are federally mandated to be equal and fair.

  2. Affirmative action is an intentional effort to create a more equitable and diverse workforce.

  3. It is illegal to be rejected from a job for reasons relating to any of the protected classes. 

Share this article