Understanding Affirmative Action

In 1964, Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act, (Title VII), in order to improve the economic and social conditions of minorities and women by providing equality of opportunity in the work place. In response to economic and social conditions, Congress, by passage of Title VII, established a national policy against discrimination in employment on grounds of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

In addition, in September of 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, as amended, to prohibit race, religion, color and national origin discrimination by federal contractors. The purpose of Executive Order No. 11246, as amended, was similar to the purpose of title VII: the achievement of equal employment opportunity. In addition to the above, EEO and AA in employment is also required by Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and by the Vietnam-era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. Moreover, a number of federal statutes prohibit employment discrimination: the Age Discrimination Act of 1967, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Discrimination in education is prohibited by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (on the basis of race and national origin) and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. It was - and still is - the purpose of EEO/AA and civil rights laws to prevent discrimination, and to provide means for recourse if it should occur.

In the employment arena, AA is the set of positive steps that employers use to promote equal opportunity with the goal of eliminating discrimination. Employers have an affirmative duty to review their programs in order to eliminate any policies, procedures, or practices that are discriminatory, even if that is not their intent. In addition, employers must take proactive measures in the recruitment, training, promotion, etc. of qualified minorities, women, veterans, and individuals with disabilities. As such, employers are required to engage in outreach efforts to broaden the pool of qualified candidates when openings exist. Decisions regarding hiring, promotions, or layoffs, are to be made on a non-discriminatory basis and must be based on the individual's qualifications.