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What is affirmative action?

People in Lakeland often associate affirmative action with workplace discrimination, and rightfully so. Affirmative action policies are aimed at preventing discrimination based on race, sex or national origin. What is misunderstood about affirmative action is that many believe it to be a law. While in some contexts, it may appear to be, affirmative action is more of an ideology that drives policy. 

The concept of affirmative action was first introduced in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy stated in Executive Order 10925 that contractors (referring specifically to government contractors) were to take "affirmative action" to ensure that employees were to be hired and treated equally without regard to creed or color. From that came the obligation for companies that contract with the federal government (as well as subcontractors) to develop hiring practices and company policies to help promote the success of minorities, women, military veterans and disabled persons. According to Section 60-1.4 of the Code of Federal Regulations, these policies are meant to assist in all of the following areas: 

  • Recruitment and hiring
  • Training
  • Compensation
  • Career advancement
  • Layoffs and terminations

What is more, companies that implement affirmative action policies are required to update them on a frequent basis to accurately reflect societal trends. They are also required to post them in an area where all employees may find and review them. 

An important point to remember regarding affirmative action is that it is only mandated of government agencies as well as contractors and subcontractors. Private companies that do not do business with governmental bodies are not required to develop or enact them (though they can choose to do so if they wish). Thus, a violation of affirmative action may not be a sufficient cause of action for a workplace discrimination lawsuit depending on the company involved. 

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