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 –rather than individually-identifying information—to state and federal agencies. 

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). Per OFCCP, Executive Order 11246 requires purposeful action to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin. 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). WSU must collect data within the demographic categories provided by these federal requirements, but WSU recognizes that these categories, particularly the sex/gender and race/ethnicity categories, do not necessarily embrace the full diversity of the WSU workforce.

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 employees’ demographic information. 
  • As required by federal law, WSU uses employee demographic data to develop a yearly Equitable Outreach, Recruitment, and Retention Plan (EORR), formerly known as an AAP. Please visit CCR’s Equal Employment Opportunity page to review WSU’s 2023 AAP Narrative, which includes information on the system’s and many departments’ action-oriented programs designed to increase outreach to women, people of color, people with disabilities, and protected veterans. You can also review Faculty and Job Group Utilization and Goals Summaries, which identify areas where workforce diversity is a concern. These reports help WSU identify any potential equity issues, develop outreach efforts that may grow diversity and comply with the requirements of federal law, and build a more inclusive community.

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 employee demographic information would result in the loss of eligibility for government funding, including financial aid and research funds. This would substantially imperil research, educational, and professional opportunities for WSU’s students, faculty, and staff and hamper WSU’s recruitment and retention of talented and passionate employees.

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 discipline or adverse treatment. However, WSU is still required to report employee demographic information to the state and federal governments due to our compliance obligations. If you don’t provide it, WSU may be reporting or relying on inaccurate information, which could impact programs, grants, and other opportunities.

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 and ask current employees periodically. For some of the demographic categories, such as disability and veteran status, an employee’s answers may change over time. WSU also understands that an employee may later choose to disclose information that they were previously uncomfortable disclosing.
  • 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. 

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 Statutes and Regulations 

Washington State Statutes