Employers Object to "Two or More Races" Item on New EEOC Form

November 18, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A new version of the government form on which employers report the race of their workers includes a controversial new designation to which an employers' group has filed an objection.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) this week approved revisions to its EEO-1 form – the first in three decades, according to a news report on the Web site of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The revisions include the addition of a new “two or more races” race category.

The new form still must be approved by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) after a 30-day public comment period. If OMB approves the new form, it will take effect in 2007.

The SHRM Web site report said the organization formally objected to the “two or more races” designation shortly after the EEOC first proposed it, asserting that the provision would “provide ambiguous and vague data as opposed to the clear and crisp data found when employees simply choose race/ethnicity based on the race/ethnicity with which they primarily identify.” SHRM also said the proposed change would diminish the usefulness of the EEO-1 form.

Other employer groups also criticized the designation as being unrealistic, according to the SHRM report. Civil rights organizations did not like the general “two or more races” category either, and they urged more detailed reporting in separate racial combinations.

However, commissioners eventually opted to keep the new designation on the version of the form they approved and sent on for final OMB approval.

In the lone dissenting voice, Commissioner Stuart Ishimaru blasted the rejection of more detailed separate racial combinations. “Lumping all the different people who identify as having more than one racial background together does not comport with the reality of employment discrimination and does not assist with civil rights enforcement,” he said. “Someone who is African American and white will have different issues and face different biases than someone who is Asian American and white-yet on the EEO-1 those selecting ‘two or more races’ will all be treated the same,” he said.

The agency commission decided not to adopt the use of a new questionnaire on race and ethnicity that it originally had recommended employers use. SHRM had cautioned that many employees would see the questionnaire as invasive and added that the form would create superfluous data that would not be reported to the government.

SHRM said that the approved revision of the form will require that employers report ethnic data, but not racial data, for Hispanic or Latino employees. Self-identification was designated as the preferred method of identification rather than visual identification, except when an individual declines to self-identify.

Finally, the EEOC approved lifting an exemption in the current EEO-1 form that does not require employers in Hawaii to report race and ethnic data, only gender.

Comments may be sent to the OMB at Carolyn_L._Lovett@omb.eop.gov . Comments also should be sent to Stephen Llewellyn, acting executive officer, executive secretariat, EEOC, 10th Floor, 1801 L St. NW, Washington, DC 20507.

Employers with 100 or more employees or al l federal government contractors and first-tier subcontractors with 50 or more employees and a contract amounting to $50,000 or more must file the EEO-1 form.

More information on the form is here .