Equal Employment Opportunity,
Affirmative Action, Diversity
Where does it end???
Are you truly an Equal Opportunity Employer (EEO)?
Do you have to complete that Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) every year to prove that you are and equal opportunity employer?
What does diversity have to do with any of this?
If you are having trouble with all of these concepts, you are not alone. The often daunting task of trying to determine where you fall in these areas is difficult at best. There are some subtle differences among them and we will attempt to clarify them here.
First there is equal employment opportunity. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 stated that employers with 15 or more employees could not discriminate against people due to their race, color, religion, national origin or sex. This seems pretty simple – you can't use any of these personal traits against someone when considering them for hire, promotion or termination.
Since 1964, other traits were added to the mix including pregnancy, age, disability and, most recently, genetic predisposition for disease. Individual states and municipalities have also added such things as marital status, smokers, sexual orientation, sexual identity and others as individuals who are protected from discrimination. The Immigration reform and control act also outlawed discrimination based on citizenship. As long as an individual has a legal right to work in the USA, they cannot be discriminated against because they are not citizens. VEVRAA stands for the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act and outlaws discrimination against veterans of the Vietnam conflict by federal contractors. It seems like a pretty silly in that Vietnam veterans are probably all over 55 years old by now. But, the law was amended in 2003 to include disabled veterans and recently separated veterans. So even though the name didn't change, the application of the law includes all veterans.
Let's talk Affirmative Action (AA). Companies are only required to have an Affirmative Action Plan if they have a contract (or a subcontract) with the Federal Government. Affirmative Action in its simplest terms is a comparison of the percentage of minorities and females within your workforce with the availability of minorities and females within a reasonable recruitment area. For example, if you employ civil engineers, the make-up of employees in your organization should mirror what is available in your city. If your percentages are lower than the availability, you have to take affirmative action in your recruitment efforts to hire qualified minority and female civil engineers as positions come open.
Executive Order 112246, which was signed by Lyndon Johnson over 46 years ago, also developed the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) to oversee compliance with Affirmative Action plans. The OFCCP was charged with coming up with a format for an Affirmative Action Plan and decided to look at a statistical analysis so complicated, it has to be completed by someone who has a PhD in statistics.
The laws were put in place because our legislators did not feel they could trust employers to not discriminate. They were right 46 years ago and still right today. Need proof? Then look at the 99,922 claims of discrimination filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in FY 2010 which ended on September 30, 2010. This represents a new record number of claims and a 7% increase over 2009 and a 36% increase from 2006.
What does Diversity mean?
The concept of diversity is also confusing. Diversity differs from the other two in that it goes beyond what is required by Equal Employment Opportunity laws and Affirmative Action regulations. But, it cannot be separated from EEO/AA as it compliments both. Diversity is a collective state of an organization's mind; its culture and belief that the best run organizations are those that open their arms to people of all races, colors, nationalities, ages, disabilities, sexual orientation and all the other traits we can think of. These organizations want the make-up of their company to represent their customer base which is made up of people from all of the above categories and more.
So, if you are truly a diverse organization, you would not have to worry about Equal Employment Opportunity because the make-up of your workplace would prove that you practice equal opportunity every day. Other than completing the annual ritual of developing and implementing an Affirmative Action Plan and the periodic audit by the OFCCP, you would not have to worry about whether or not you are meeting your goals and objectives for hiring minorities and females – it would just happen.
This all sounds so utopian, it is. Diversity has to be something that is ingrained in the minds of employees. It takes a lot of hard work to maintain true diversity.
Diversity is here to stay
The United States of American is probably THE most diverse country in the world. I have no empirical evidence to support this claim, but all you have to do is look around you to know that there are people from every corner of the earth, speaking hundreds of languages bringing different cultures, religions, ideas and practices to this country. With this cultural diversity, there are bound to be misunderstandings and difficulties. America is becoming more diverse every day. We can either embrace it or we take the risk of being sued for discrimination or being barred from federal contracts. It is pretty much that simple.
In a perfect world that is devoid of stereotypes, discrimination, racism and distrust of people who are different than us, we would not have the EEO laws and Affirmative Action regulations as they would not be needed. But we are not there yet – America is great, but it is not perfect. There is still quite a bit of stereotyping discrimination, racism and outright hatred and intolerance throughout the country.
Where to go from here
First look at the make-up of your workforce. Does it reflect the market you serve? If not, change it when you have openings. Become a community leader and hire the best person available regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, age, citizenry, sexual orientation, veteran status, disability, genetic predisposition to disease and any other characteristic that is not related to the job.
It is really not that difficult!!!
Special Thanks to Robin Waddell, the Diversity Manager at Haskell for the idea of writing this article.
Dads don't know anything.
I had the name of my daughter's band wrong in the last issue of the McKenzie Mailer. The correct name of my daughter Megan's band is "From a City in Trees."
Click on the link to listen to their first single. Megan wrote and sings the song, Stupid for You. https://fromacityintrees.bandcamp.com/