Affirmative action has been arguably the most widely debated and controversial topic in this country for decades. Affirmative action is defined as the intentional inclusion of women and minorities in the workplace after demonstrated underrepresentation of these disadvantaged groups (Bennett & Hartman, 2007, p. 181). Opponents of affirmative action argue that it gives the protected groups an unfair advantage and allows less qualified applicants to get gain employment. In reality, as written in Executive Orders and court interpretation, anyone who benefits from affirmative action must have relevant educational or job qualifications. Proponents of affirmative action on the other hand argue that the protected groups were disadvantaged for such an extended period of time that even more needs to be done in order to achieve true equality in the workplace.
A direct outgrowth of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, affirmative action was intended to be remedy for past injustices. Though more Caucasian women have been the beneficiaries of affirmative action than any other protected group, many still view it as a racial issue.
Affirmative action in fact, cannot begin to address the issue of racial inequality. The action only seeks equal representation in employment and education for the protected classes. Even though affirmative action has been in existence for more than 40 years, the workplace is still dominated by white males. Though women are estimated to make up 47% of the U.S. workforce, the median income for women is almost 50% less than that of their male counterparts. Only 12% of the corporate officers in the 500 largest US companies are women. The statistics for minorities are even more discouraging. Many contend that affirmative action brings about reverse discrimination. Affirmative action effectively widens the employment landscape and allows diverse innovative problem solving modalities that enrich both organizations and society.
Affirmative action plans can result from voluntary decisions by employers or in response to requirements for being a government contractor or subcontractor. This paper will explain affirmative action, the employers that are subjected to affirmative action plans and why, what the plans require employers to do and the consequences of failing to meet the goals of the affirmative action plan.
Affirmative is an orchestrated attempt to maintain a diverse workforce. Executive Order 11246 mandates that employers with 50 or more employees who have federal non-construction contracts or subcontracts of $50,000 or more must formulate a written affirmative action plan within 120 days of the commencement of the contract (N.A., 2001).The plan must outline the employer's current workforce by race and sex. Statistical analysis depicting whether or not females and minorities are under-represented must be included in the plan. The employer is responsible to show whether or not the percentage of minorities and females is lower than that of the geographical labor area. Annual reviews, updates and extensive documentation are required. The Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 additionally require employers with more than 50 employees and federal contracts of more than $50,000, to develop written affirmative action plans.
Affirmative Action expects employers to do more than ensure equality in employment. Affirmative action takes the initiative to equitably broadcast, enlist, hire and promote qualified members of protected groups and to eradicate discrimination. Affirmative action aggressively and systematically undertakes activities to achieve diversity and equality for all, not just the protected groups. According to the Equal Opportunity Commission, Affirmative Action "is considered essential to assuring that jobs are genuinely and equally accessible to qualified persons, without regard to their sex, racial or ethnic characteristics (N.A., 2001)." Affirmative Action seeks to break down barriers and to educate others to enable organizations to be more productive and innovative. Affirmative action seeks to afford equal access to self-development to individuals who are members of protected classes. "Affirmative action laws require covered employers to implement very specific plans to identify and hire certain protected class members. These laws apply to employers that do a specific dollar amount of business with the federal government, or receive federal government funds (banks, hospitals, etc.). Additionally, a court can order an employer to implement an affirmative action plan to correct past discrimination (Bennett-Alexander, 2007)."If an employer does not meet the goals of an affirmative action plan the employer is reported to the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). The OFCCP is the agency that enforces federal contracts and subcontracts.
If an employer is investigated by the OFCCP and found to be out of compliance with these affirmative action requirements, the result can be contract cancellation, termination, or suspensions, as well retroactive compensation for workers who were the victims of discrimination. Additionally, employers may be disqualified from engaging in future government contracts. In addition to the OFCCP the Secretary of Labor or the appropriate contracting agency have the right to impose a number of penalties on the employer for noncompliance. The secretary of labor can publish the names of nonconforming contractors or labor unions and recommend the institution of proceedings under Title VII, to the EEOC or the Department of Justice.
The Attorney General can also be requested to bring suit to consummate the executive order in instances of actual or impending consequential breach of the contractual EEO clause. Recommendation may also be made to the Department of Justice to initiate criminal litigation for the dispensation of misleading information to a contracting agency or the Secretary of Labor, and exclusion of the non-complying contractor from participating in further government contracts until the contractor has convinced the secretary that it will uphold the provisions of the order (Bennett-Alexander, 2007).
The affirmative action debate will continue to be waged for a long time. Opponents see it as reverse discrimination, proponents as a minute step in the right direction to right previous injustices. Though many strides have been made and the workforce is more diverse, disparities in salaries and promotion still abound. The issue of race has been the main reason affirmative action was not allowed to work. The tide has now turned, sentiments are much the same as in the 1960s and before and affirmative action, though never given a chance to succeed is now being eradicated. With the US population constantly changing and baby boomers retiring, there may one day be no need for affirmative action programs. Today, though, these programs are still very much in need.
Ã¢ÂÂReferencesBennett-Alexander, D. & Hartman, L. (2007). Employment Law for Business, McGraw-HillHR.COM. Retrieved September 27, 2009, from Affirmative action plans: Are you required to have one? www.hr.comhttp://www.hr.com/SITEFORUM?&