What is Required for Affirmative Action Plans & When are They Necessary?
Eliminating discrimination in the workplace remains a high priority for the government. One of the ways the United States combats discrimination is through affirmative action plans. Affirmative action plans are guidelines that encourage companies to actively seek out employees, vendors and contractors who belong to minority groups. For instance, a government contractor may implement a plan to encourage the recruitment and hiring of qualified minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and covered veterans.
There is a misconception by many employers that they have to have an affirmative action program in place to comply with the requirements of federal and state equal opportunity laws. While true that laws prohibit unlawful discrimination against applicants and employees because of their race, gender, age, disability or national origin, they usually do not require formal affirmative action programs. Employers generally implement formal affirmative action programs as a condition of doing business with the federal government.
There are three separate laws that require certain employers that do business with the federal government to implement affirmative action programs.
Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires contractors with contracts over $10,000 to take affirmative action with regard to qualified individuals with disabilities.
The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA), as amended by the Jobs for Veterans Act, requires contractors to take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment veterans with service-connected disabilities, recently separated veterans and other protected veterans.
Executive Order 11246, requires federal contractors and subcontractors with 50 or more employees who have entered into at least one contract of $50,000 or more with the federal government must prepare and maintain a written program.
Some states also have affirmative action program requirements for state government contractors. Generally, Affirmative action programs are kept by the contractor and must be produced in case of an audit by Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). In some situations, courts have required employers to adopt affirmative action programs as a remedy for discrimination. Furthermore, some employers voluntarily adopt affirmative action policies and will make an extra effort to hire a diverse workforce. Once a company adopts an affirmative action policy, they should follow it to avoid lawsuits from potential employees.
Affirmative action programs are complex to create. Most employers do not choose to implement such programs unless they become mandatory. An affirmative action plan consists of statistical analyses of an employer’s utilization (or underutilization) of individuals from certain protected classes such as women, veterans, minorities, and people with disabilities. An affirmative action plan will also contain information about the steps that will be taken in order to improve the representation of these types of individuals in the workplace. Affirmative actions include training programs, outreach efforts, and other positive steps. These procedures should be incorporated into the company’s written personnel policies. Employers with written affirmative action programs must implement them, keep them on file and update them annually.
If you are uncertain if affirmative action laws apply to you, please contact your legal counsel or give us a call. Our team of experienced HR specialists can provide you general guidance on the applicability of the regulations to your business. Laws prohibit unlawful discrimination against applicants and employees, but that does not mean that all employers must adopt affirmative action programs. Seek our expert advice if you are uncertain.
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