If an EMPLOYEE declines to disclose EEO-1 reporting information the employer is instructed by the government to make a visual identification. And you’re in the same boat if s/he has provided information you cannot use for reporting purposes. Of course, employers are reluctant to make visual identifications and I have a feeling that employees wouldn’t be thrilled with it either -- if they knew. But I suspect that the most likely explanation for these unusable responses is that some employees really don’t understand the options. I’d suggest that someone in HR, preferably someone from your EEO Compliance Team, get in touch with such employees. Whether you do this by email, by phone conversation or face-to-face is a judgment call and should also reflect the culture of your organization. But you might begin with the message apologizing if the form wasn’t clear and that this is not an uncommon occurrence when one is dealing with a STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT FORMAT. NEVER HESITATE TO BLAME THE FEDS…this is THEIR format and, as a contractor, you are REQUIRED to ask specific questions and provide a specific and limited choice of options for replies. That’s the truth and “deflecting” to this third party may serve to make an uncomfortable situation more comfortable for both employee and employer. You MAY be able to prevent some/many such situations if you deal with this issue universally, up front, and very matter-of-factly. I have typically advised clients to include in their solicitations OF EMPLOYEES (not applicants) the following paragraph: “As a federal government contractor we are required to solicit certain personal, non-job related, information from our employees. We’re required to keep records and to file periodic reports with the government by standardized gender, race and ethnic categories. We recognize that some employees will find these questions intrusive or otherwise objectionable and we regret giving unintended offense. If an employee declines to provide the requested information in the format required by the government, the government requires us to do what it calls a “visual survey”. We think self-identification is likely to result in the most accurate information. Nevertheless, providing this information is voluntary and there will be no negative consequences if you elect not to do so. This information is kept confidential and is never used in making an employment decision. (I'm not able to "bold" or underline here -- hence all the capitals! -- but I would "bold" the last eight words of that last sentence.) On my Model EEO Survey form, I reinforce/remind respondents of their “identification options” in this way: Sex - in the government mandated categories below - Check One Only __ Male __ Female ___ I decline to provide information on gender. Race/Ethnicity - in the government mandated categories below - Check One Only ___ White, not Hispanic or Latino ___ Black or African American, not Hispanic or Latino ___ Hispanic or Latino (all races) ___ Asian, not Hispanic or Latino ___ Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, not Hispanic or Latino ___ American Indian, Eskimo or Aleut, not Hispanic or Latino ___ Two or more races, not Hispanic or Latino (for example, White and Black, or Black, Asian and Am. Indian) ___ I decline to provide information on race/ethnicity. (I would also use boldface type for the phrases "in the government mandated categories below" and "Check One Only".) When dealing with hard copy forms it was always a huge challenge to fit everything on one page. With the greater flexibility of electronic surveys, you could also add, “if you have any questions or want to discuss your completion of this form, please feel free to… [ask the HR team member doing your orientation] [call Sue Smith at Ext. 123] [stop by the EEO office located ____________ for assistance]", as appropriate. That said – perhaps my most important and often repeated advice is – DO NOT MAKE POLICY BASED ON EXCEPTIONS! If unusable responses are only an occasional problem, I’d handle each in the simplest, most low-key way possible. In the case you describe I DO NOT recommend just picking one of the responses the employee gave, although I’d be willing to bet that “Hispanic” is the single answer that would be most accurate AMONG THE CHOICES you and the employee have. (It’s almost certain the employee didn’t understand that s/he had to pick just one and that if s/he has Hispanic ancestry to check that box will always be the answer the government was looking for). Call her up, explain as above -- don't forget to bring the government into it! -- and ask her if she would be willing to change her response. If she declines to do so, then I’d make the “visual survey”, MAKE A RECORD IN THE PERSONNEL FILE, with a copy to the EEO Officer, about who did the visual and why and, henceforth, record/report to the government in the race/ethnic category that you “visually” discern. But because you can't handle applicants in this way -- and there are likely many more of them in comparison to employees that are providing unusable responses -- I would strongly suggest making modifications TO THE GENDER, RACE, ETHNICITY questions (only) that will emphasize "the government makes us do it", "choose one only" and "government mandated categories".
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