Affirmative action

The affirmative action concept states that an employer must be proactive in ensuring the employment and subsequent treatment of individuals without regard to their race, religion, color, sex, or national origin. If a company is or wants to be a contractor of the federal government, it must comply with affirmative action rules. 

Affirmative action applies to the following areas:

  • Recruiting
  • Hiring
  • Promotions and demotions
  • Job transfers
  • Selection for training programs
  • Compensation
  • Layoffs and terminations

An employer impacted by affirmative action must post information about the program in the workplace. In addition, there must be a detailed policy statement supporting affirmative action.

An affirmative action program is designed to create a workforce that is proportional to its representation in the relevant labor market of the business. To do so, the distribution of the current workforce is compared to the relevant labor market and any disparities are noted. The company then creates annual and ultimate goals that are reasonably attainable to increase the hiring and subsequent treatment of minorities and women in order to reduce these disparities. In more detail, the following steps are included in an affirmative action plan:

  1. Assign responsibility for the program to a person having access to senior management.
  2. Create groups of jobs, aggregated by similar duties and responsibilities.
  3. Classify current employees by job group.
  4. Calculate the percentages of minorities and women currently in each job group.
  5. Obtain demographic information on the available labor pool for each job group.
  6. Compare the proportions of protected classes in each job group to the related labor pool.
  7. Set goals to improve the representation of those protected classes that are currently under-represented in the workforce.
  8. Periodically review with management the results of the program, including actions taken to achieve designated goals.

There are a number of steps that can be taken to increase the representation of minorities and women in a company’s workforce. Consider the following options:

  • Contact organizations that can refer minority and female job applicants to the company
  • Contact current minority and women employees, and ask them to refer candidates
  • Recruit at schools whose attendees are primarily minorities or women
  • Engage in job fairs in the relevant labor markets
  • Create special employment programs targeted at minorities and women

A government contractor may be investigated by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) to see if it is in compliance with affirmative action. This investigation may be triggered by the past affirmative action performance of a contractor, complaints received, employment changes that may result from a contract that is about to be awarded, and similar issues. If an employer is not in compliance, the OFCCP will first attempt to persuade the company to take compliance steps. If this fails, a formal notice is issued, along with a request for a response. The parties then enter into a written contract to bring the business into compliance. If violations are not corrected, a company can be passed over for future contract awards by the government, and current contracts may be suspended or terminated.

Related Courses

Human Resources Guidebook 
Recruiting and Hiring