U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

EEO History


What is EEO?

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) is about ensuring that work environments are free from unlawful discrimination and harassment, and provides employees with equal opportunities for jobs, training and development. It was during the 20th century that EEO evolved, and as a result of this evolution, EEO laws and regulation were created.

The Origins of EEO

On September 24, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson issued Executive Order 11246. This Order stated that the head of each executive department and agency shall establish and maintain a positive program of equal employment opportunity for all civilian employees and applicants for employment within its jurisdiction.

This Executive order led to the first EEO Executive Order. On August 8, 1969, former President Richard Nixon signed Executive Order 11478, which required that the United Stated government provide equal opportunity in federal employment for all persons, to prohibit discrimination in employment based on race, sex, age, color, religion, national origin, physical or mental handicap. As a result of this, EEO laws were developed.

There are six Federal laws that prohibit unlawful job discrimination, and one regulation that governs the process of Federal sector discrimination complaints.

Federal EEO Laws

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), as amended in 1972
(the Equal Employment Act of 1972 amended Title VII to place Federal government employees and applicants under its coverage) - Prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion or national origin. Title VII also prohibits reprisal or retaliation for participating in the EEO process or for opposing any unlawful employment practice covered by Title VII.

Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963 
Prohibits employers from paying employees of one sex less wages than those of the opposite sex who perform equal work. Equal work means that the jobs being compared required equal skills, effort and responsibilities, and are performed under similar working conditions.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 
Prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of age against individuals 40 years of age or older. Unlike Title VII and the Rehabilitation Act, the ADEA allows persons claiming age discrimination to go directly to court, without going through the administrative complaint process.

Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 
Prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals with a disability by private employers, state and local government, employment agencies, and labor unions in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.

Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 
Prohibit discrimination on the basis of mental and physical disability. It requires Federal agencies to make reasonable accommodation for the known physical or mental limitations of a qualified disabled applicant or employee, unless the agency can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of it is program.

Civil Rights Act of 1991 
Enacted in part to reverse several Supreme Court decisions that limited the rights of persons protected by these laws; the Act also provides additional protections. It authorizes compensatory and punitive damages in cases of intentional discrimination, and provides for obtaining attorney's fees and the possibility of jury trials. It also directs the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to expand its technical assistance and outreach activities.

Title VII and the ADA cover all private employers, state and local governments, and educational institutions that employ 15 or more individuals. These laws also cover private and public employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor management committee controlling apprenticeship and training.

The ADEA covers all private employers with 20 or more employees, state and local governments (including school districts), employment agencies and labor organizations.

The EPA covers all employees who are covered by the Federal Wage and Hour Law (the Fair Labor Standards Act). Virtually all employers are subject to the provision of this Act.

Title VII, the ADEA, and the EPA also cover the Federal government. In addition, the Federal government is covered by Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, which incorporates the requirements of the ADA. However, different procedures are used for processing complaints of Federal discrimination.

Federal EEO Regulation

Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1614 
Governs the process of Federal sector discrimination complaints. These regulations outline the procedures for complaint processing.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces EEO laws and also provides oversight and coordination of all Federal EEO regulations, practices, and policies.

EEOC is an independent Federal agency originally created by Congress in 1964 to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Commission is composed of five Commissioners and a General Counsel appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Commissioners are appointed for five-year staggered terms; the General Counsel's term is four years. The U.S. President designates a Chairman and Vice Chairman. The Chairman is the Chief Executive Officer of the Commission. The Commission has authority to establish equal employment policies and to approve litigation. The General Counsel is responsible for conducting litigation.

Management Directive 110 Issued by the EEOC which became effective on November 9, 1999. This guidance describes the procedures that must be followed when processing complaints of discrimination filed by current and former Federal employees, and applicants for Federal employment alleging employment discrimination.

Management Directive 715 Provides policy guidance and standards for establishing and maintaining effective affirmative programs of equal employment opportunity. This Directive also sets forth general reporting requirements.



For more information about the Office of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion, contact us by phone at 202-453-2063.

Please direct correspondence to:

Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau 
Director, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion 
1310 G Street, NW, Box 12 
Washington, DC 20005


Last updated: March 22, 2024
Maintained by: Office of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion