Affirmative Action in the Public and Private Sector

Affirmative action has taken on many meanings for different people over the course of time. It can be defined as a proactive approach to removing barriers that prevent any person from having an equal opportunity based on discriminatory practices (Soni, 1999). This approach is aimed at overcoming lingering barriers and disadvantages that exist due to past discrimination (Lee, 1999). Discrimination has been defined as treating persons differently based on classifications that are outside of their individual qualifications and merit (Soni, 1999). In contrast to equal employment opportunity (EE0), which takes a reactive nondiscrimination approach, affirmative action is aimed at finding ways to increase the presence of a diverse workforce (Soni, 1999).

The goal of affirmative action programs is to establish fairness in employment while simultaneously addressing the impact of past discrimination (Lee, 1999). Affirmative action also includes proactive steps to draw in qualified persons of diverse backgrounds into the application process (Soni, 1999). These steps may include recruitment strategies, employment incentives, and advancement of qualified individuals from these protected classes. For example, a company may develop a recruitment strategy for attracting female or minority applicants as advertising in journals or publications that target a female or minority population.

In 1964 Congress passed Public Law 82-352 (78 Stat. 241). The stipulation of this civil rights act forbade discrimination for any entity receiving federal funding. Title VII of this act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race in hiring, promoting, and firing employees. According to Title VII, it is unlawful for employers to fail to hire, to fire, or to discriminate against any individual in regards to their compensation or other terms of employment based upon their race, religion, sex, or national origin (Carrington, McCue, & Brooks, 2000). Nor is it lawful for the employer to segregate or classify employees in any manner based upon these factors.

This act required that companies stop all employment discrimination and it addressed not only those companies with federal contracts but employers as a whole (Carrington, McCue, & Brooks, 2000). Title VII also permits employees to sue their employer for discrimination in hiring and promotion practices. Further it established the Equal Opportunity Commission to oversee compliance and address issues (Carrington, McCue & Brooks, 2000). The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the monitoring agency and it is charged with investigating allegations of discrimination and bringing actions to the federal court (Carrington, McCue, & Brooks, 2000).

Initially Title VII applied to private sector employers with 25 or more employees, however, in 1972 legislation reduced this expectation to 15 employees (Carrington, McCue & Brooks, 2000). Violations carry a punishment including civil penalties such as remedial hiring policies and back pay awards (Carrington, McCue & Brooks, 2000). The notion behind Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) is that all individuals ought to have equal access to employment opportunities. EEO is legally mandated for all federal contractors.

Since 1972, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has had the authority to bring class action suits against violators and has implemented a wide-range monitoring system (Skrentny, 2001). Further, since 1966, private sector employers have been mandated to submit EEO-1 forms annually if they have more than 100 employees or have a federal contract with $50,000 or more and 50 or more employees. These forms require the employer to submit information regarding the representation of diversity in their workplace.

President Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, on September 24, 1965, which prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or origin (Carrington, McCue, Brooks, 2000). This order requires that all persons are treated equally in the application process. This…