Most employers want to find the best, most qualified candidates for their open roles, regardless of age, race, sex, or other inconsequential criteria. 

Yet, whether it’s conscious or not, those things often factor into the employment equation. And that’s precisely why being an “equal opportunity employer” has continued to attract more and more attention—particularly in the hospitality industry. 


What Does it Mean to Be an Equal Opportunity Employer?

You’ve probably heard the term “equal opportunity employer” used before, but what does it mean? An equal opportunity employer is a company that does not discriminate against employees or applicants based on: 

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex

The aim of enforcing equal employment opportunities is to promote the inclusion and participation of underrepresented groups in the labour market and society. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against potential or existing employees.


Do All Companies Have to Be Equal Opportunity Employers?

Well, that depends mostly on your location. 

Equal opportunities and treatment are recognized as fundamental rights under EU law. Furthermore, "Equal Opportunities and Access To the Labour Market," part of the European pillar of social rights, covers four domains:

  1. Education, training and life-long learning
  2. Gender equality
  3. Equal opportunities
  4. Active support to employment

Discrimination of any sort is illegal across the Union. However, it still represents a challenge for the region. The latest Eurobarometer survey (2015) showed that 64% of respondents think that discrimination based on ethnic origin is spread in the EU, 58% for sexual orientation, 50% for disability and religion and 42% for being over 55 years old.

In the United States, the concept of equal opportunity employer is based on U.S. discrimination laws. These laws are enforced by the  Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and typically apply to U.S. companies that have more than 14 employees for at least 20 calendar weeks of the year.

So, if you’re a hospitality company that’s not based in or doesn’t have significant business connections to the U.S., then the U.S. EEO laws don’t apply to you or your employees.

With that said, some countries have their own discrimination laws that you might need to be mindful of. However, many are lagging behind. A shocking 51% of countries have no laws to protect workers from discrimination. 

Regardless of whether or not being an equal opportunity employer is a legal requirement for you and your hospitality organization, putting practices into play to avoid discrimination is a wise step to ensure your hiring and employment processes are fair and ethical.


Is Equal Opportunity Employment More Important in Hospitality Than In Other Industries?

Equal opportunity employment and fair treatment of workers should be a priority for every industry—not just hospitality.

However, the hospitality industry has garnered a lot of focus with regard to EEO laws, mostly owed to alarming facts and statistics like these: 

  • The hospitality industry received the most complaints to the EEOC of any other sector or industry in 2015. [1]
  • A study found that racial discrimination is prevalent in the hospitality industry and significantly decreases career satisfaction among those employees. [2]
  • The hotel industry has frequently come under fire for incidents related to racial bias. [3]
  • One 2016 report found that men in the hospitality industry are ten times more likely to be promoted to principal or president levels than women. [4] 

To state it simply, equal opportunity employment isn’t more important for the hospitality industry, but it seems that hospitality companies have more work to do when it comes to addressing and preventing discrimination. 


How to Be an Equal Opportunity Hospitality Employer 

Being an equal opportunity employer shouldn’t be a step you take to bolster your employer brand or look good to hospitality job candidates. It’s not an empty marketing tactic. 

Instead, it needs to be a core part of your hiring practices and your company culture to ensure a fair and supportive work environment for every single applicant and employee.

All of that begs the question: How do you combat those problems? How can you be an equal opportunity hospitality employer—regardless of if it’s legally required for you or not? 

There are five steps you can take to ensure you’re treating job applicants and current employees fairly. We've put these steps together for you in a handy guide! Get this useful resource delivered directly to your inbox. 






[1] USA: Hospitality industry faced most complaints before Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of any sector in 2015 (Business Human Rights, 2016)

[2] All people are created equal? Racial discrimination and its impact on hospitality career satisfaction (International Journal of Hospitality Management Volume 89, August 2020)

[3] Hotels Grapple With Racial Bias (Elaine Glusac in The New York Times, 2018)

[4] Women in the Hospitality Industry Battling Gender Inequality (Grace Beck in MSU news, 2018)