Saturday, June 9, 2007
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued a new letter on the language appropriate for colleges to use in their job advertisements — a topic that critics of affirmative action have been pushing higher on the EEOC agenda. The new letter does not bar colleges from indicating that they welcome female or minority applicants for positions, but the letter uses language that critics of affirmative action see as a move in their direction. And the letter specifically endorses the use of language that does not indicate a particular welcome to certain groups . . . .
The new letter, written in April and just posted by the EEOC on its Web site, takes a different approach, responding to an inquiry from Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, which opposes affirmative action. The new letter references last year’s letter — but with different language to describe it — and then goes on to deal with a question from Clegg about what he sees as a better way to indicate an open environment for all applicants.
“We commented that job advertisements typically should not indicate a preference based on race, sex, or ethnicity. We noted that there are circumstances under which focused recruiting is used in order to eliminate barriers to employment opportunity and attract a more diverse applicant pool. We also noted that the legality of a particular practice cannot be assessed outside the context of particular facts that have been fully investigated,” the letter said.
“Of course, there are different ways to develop a diverse applicant pool and particular circumstances will determine which methods are both lawful and efficacious. You suggested that a way for employers to signal that they welcome applications from all individuals without regard to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, but without indicating a preference for any group, would be to use language such as the following: ‘Men and women, and members of all racial and ethnic groups, are encouraged to apply.’ We agree, and such a statement is lawful regardless of the surrounding circumstances, even if an employer had no need to diversify its applicant pool,” the letter added.
While this letter does not have the force of law, it does seem to indicate a slight change in mind-set in the EEOC against affirmative action language in such job announcements. We will see whether this language influences how universities and colleges seeks job candidates in the months to come.