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In the US it is law that an employer cannot discriminate based on race, religion, color or sex per the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Yet there are some companies who advertise themselves as equal opportunity employers while others don't.

What is the difference between the companies? Does one carry more obligation than the other? Are they any different in terms of law?

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    The difference is one of marketing. – Oded Sep 13 '12 at 19:43
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It's just legal verbage; legally speaking all employers are required to be equal opportunity employers. The only difference is whether or not they choose to identify as such explicitly and where they chose to do so; the larger an organization or the more lawyers involved, the more likely you are to see an EOE notice somewhere prominent. It may also be a matter of marketing or PR; companies with a focus on diversity, notably Universities, often have such a notice.

It's a National Law so there's really no ifs ands or buts beyond the wording of the related acts. Not having the verbiage does not exclude a company from following the laws nor does the absence of the verbiage preclude employees any sort of protection.

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    Some employers add categories not protected by the law (e.g. GBLT), and they can only meaningfully say that in the context of an EEO notice. So sometimes it does mean something, but you have to scan the list. – Monica Cellio Sep 13 '12 at 20:27
  • @MonicaCellio true, they could offer more than the standard laws require (though several places consider sexual orientation protected as well, just not nationally). – Rarity Sep 13 '12 at 20:34
  • You can not discriminate but you are not required to be an EOE. And certain businesses are exempt from the rules all together. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 13 '12 at 20:46
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    EOE's have reporting responsibilities. They get tax breaks and/or other benefits for it. They have a few extra forms to fill out on hiring/change of job/term/ etc. Compliance in that is optional. Ill see if I can find the specs, I think I have them on a thumb drive. I actually had to do some onboarding forms for an App for a former employer. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 13 '12 at 20:54
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    @Thecrocodilehunter - If I have time. A good answer will take quite a bit of work to put together. There are over 800 pages of documents that I have from the project. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 14 '12 at 13:04

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