History and Current Trends of Affirmative Action in the Workplace
May 8, 2012
Origins of Affirmative Action Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it unlawful for an employer "to fail or refuse to hire an individual because of that individual's race, color, sex... or national origin." Affirmative action went a step further to ensure that active efforts were made to overcome discrimination. Not only were efforts made to rectify and avert discrimination, but also to increase representation of designated disadvantaged groups, namely, women and ethnic minorities who are underrepresented in the workforce, for example, African Americans and Latinos. In 1964 affirmative action was instituted as a policy when President Lyndon Johnson issued Executive Order 11246.1. This order required organizations with more than fifty employees that wished to enter contracts with federal agencies to take “Affirmative Action” to ensure that all current and future employees were employed in fair numbers and treated fairly on the job. In addition, regulations set forth by the Secretary of Labor required organizations to develop internal monitoring to identify problem areas and, should underutilization be discovered, required organizations to create goals and timetables to correct these problems. Originally affirmative action was designed to overcome discrimination and barriers to equal employment opportunity, but more recently it has also been legitimated by the U.S. Supreme Court as a means of realizing diversity goals.
Types of Affirmative Action Affirmative Action comes in many different forms. Corporate affirmative action encompasses a wide range of strategies often not recognized as affirmative action. For example, mentorship programs in an organization can be a form of Affirmative Action. Other forms include career advancement training and validation tests. Oppenheimer grouped affirmative action program models into five categories. The five categories are: (1) Targeted hiring, (2) Quotas, (3) Plus factor programs, (4) Self-examination programs, and (5) Outreach programs. Targeted hiring includes initiatives to target women and minorities. These initiatives can include marketing efforts like posting ads in magazines or periodicals that are read by women and minorities. These individuals often learn about organizations or positions from these ads. Another form of targeted hiring is sending recruiters to college campus events that target women and minorities to either talk about the organizations and employment opportunities or to interview students for jobs. Job Fairs are a larger scale means of targeting minorities. For example, a job fair with representatives from numerous different organizations held on a Historically Black College campus will target a lot of potential minority employees. Diversity internships are also a popular program in many government agencies. Women and minority students can apply for these programs. These programs usually run for a short duration of time such as a summer or semester. These programs give women and minorities exposure to different agencies. These targeted individuals might gain interest in these organizations and later go back to apply for full-time employment. These internships can also serve as screening mechanisms for human resource personal. They can find qualified people through these programs and offer them permanent positions. Plus factor programs are programs that rank applicants on a number of factors, but give minorities extra points just for falling under a particular group. These types of programs are typically more commonly used in educational settings. Quotas which set aside a certain number of spots exclusively for minorities are another form of affirmative action, but