Affirmative Action: Questions and Answers

 1. What is affirmative action?

Affirmative action is a set of specific, result-oriented procedures designed to increase the utilization of minorities and females at all levels in the work force.

2. Will affirmative action result in "reverse discrimination?"

No. Discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and age is illegal. Any person has the right to file a complaint if he or she believes an opportunity has been denied because of discrimination. Any form of discrimination is abuse of affirmative action and conflicts with the intent of the program and equal opportunity law.

3. Is affirmative action a form of preferential treatment?

All "selection" is a form of "preferential treatment." In every employment decision a preference is exercised when more than one candidate is being considered. It is acceptable to undertake special efforts to bring into the work force those who have been previously excluded on a class basis. Affirmative action is designed to correct underutilization; it is not designed to prefer minorities and females to the exclusion of other groups.

4. Does affirmative action mean lowering standards?

No, meaningful standards for qualifications and job performance should not be lowered. However, affirmative action does mean changing standards when it is found, for example, that minimum qualifications which screen out a disproportionate number of persons of a certain protected group are unduly stringent, are not job related, or do not predict job performance. Affirmative action also means developing selection strategies which measure the skills required for the job instead of using artificial measurements which serve only to reduce the number of applicants.

5. Are employers expected to hire the "less qualified" over the "more qualified" to meet affirmative action goals?

Employers are not expected to establish any hiring practices that conflict with the principles of sound personnel management and equal opportunity law. No one should be hired unless he or she is "fully qualified" and there is a basis for believing the individual will perform successfully. However, looking at any work force, it is obvious that the state of art is not yet developed to the point where it is possible to predict the candidate who is certain to give the best performance once hired. The "best" or "most" qualified applicant may be the one who is most motivated, has demonstrated potential, or brings diversity into the work force.

6. Is there really any difference between "goals" and "quotas?"

Yes. Quotas are rigid and exclusionary; they infer, "this is what you must achieve." Goals are flexible and inclusionary; they infer "This is what can be achieved if you put forth good faith efforts." Goals indicate what could reasonably be the representation of women and minorities in your work force based on the availability of people who are qualified to hold positions in your organization. Goals are a target toward which to strive and a vehicle for measuring progress.