FAQ for Collection of Personal Demographic Information

Why does WSU ask me to identify personal demographic information such as my gender, race/ethnicity, veteran status and disability status? 

  • Collecting this data allows WSU, as well as state and federal agencies, to assess whether our recruitment, retention, and other employee processes are effective at ensuring equal employment opportunity. 
  • WSU is a federal and state contractor, which means that WSU receives funds from the federal government and the State of Washington in the form of financial aid, research funds, and various other grants. 
  • Granting agencies as well as accrediting bodies often require WSU to complete assurances; which often include a statement of compliance and information to verify that WSU maintains compliance with state and federal civil rights laws. 
  • WSU is also required to submit various reports to state and federal agencies which includes aggregate data on employee demographics. 

Which laws require WSU to collect personal demographic information? 

  • As a federal contractor, WSU is subject to Presidential Executive Order 11246 and the regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the U.S. Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). WSU also is required to file annual reports with the DOL, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) containing summary data about its employees (e.g.: type of job held, gender, race/ethnicity, disability, and veteran status). 

Could WSU choose not to collect personal demographic information and decline to report it to the federal or state government? 

  • WSU’s failure to collect and report personal demographic information from employees would result in the loss of eligibility for government funding, including financial aid and research funds, which would be very costly to the institution. 

Does collecting personal demographic information violate Washington’s State’s non-discrimination law? 

  • RCW 49.60.401, states that “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”  This law further states, “This section does not prohibit action that must be taken to establish or maintain eligibility for any federal program, if ineligibility would result in a loss of federal funds to the state.”  These provisions, which were enacted in 1998, are now the standard in most states and are reflected in federal guidelines as well. 

Why are current employees being asked to provide personal demographic information, as well as new employees? 

  • Federal regulations require that we ask applicants and new employees to fill out voluntary self-identification forms, as well as asking current employees periodically.  This is because, for some of the demographics categories, such as disability and veteran status, an employee’s answers may change over time.  Also, an employee may now choose to disclose information that they previously were not comfortable disclosing on previous self-identification forms. 
  • WSU has recently updated the Employee Demographics Survey consistent with changes in state and federal regulations.  The data we collected from previous surveys is now out of date or incomplete. 
  • Every university is required to gather this information and we are evaluated on our efforts to ensure equal opportunity; the more employees who complete this survey, the more we can demonstrate that these efforts are a high priority at WSU. 

May I choose not to disclose my personal demographic information? 

  • Submission of this information is voluntary and refusal to provide it will not subject you to any adverse treatment. 

Who has access to employee personal demographic information? 

  • WSU treats all individual demographic information as confidential to the extent allowed by law. The institution maintains the data separately from all personnel files; the data is available only to a few WSU employees with a business need-to-know. The information is used by WSU’s Office of Institutional Research and Compliance and Civil Rights to provide summary reports to the federal and state governments for compliance purposes as well as providing aggregate data to granting agencies.  Specifically, appointing authorities, search committees, and supervisors do not have access to the self-identification questionnaire responses for individual employees.  CCR advises senior leadership on trends and progress on their EEO efforts based on aggregated data but does not disclose individual employee’s demographic information. 

Where can I find out more about the laws and regulations that require WSU to collect this personal demographic information? 

The following links are to relevant federal regulations and state laws: 

Federal Affirmative Action Regulations 

Washington State Regulations 

Whom may I contact with additional questions? 

Monica Collins

Affirmative Action/HR Assistant 
Compliance and Civil Rights