By: Dr. Brittany Castonguay 3 July 2023 #Management
62 years ago, in 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed executive order 10925, instructing affirmative action for the first time in the United States’ history. The order declared that government entities would take “affirmative action to ensure that applicants are treated equally without regard to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, was established three years later through the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This landmark legislation prohibited organizations with a minimum of 15 employees from discrimination. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 went beyond government contracts and applied to all businesses operating in the United States.
Affirmative action was later revised in 1967 by President Johnson to include women.
It wasn’t until 1973 that President Richard M. Nixon signed the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to expand affirmative action to EEOC to include the hiring, placement, and advancement of individuals with disabilities.
In 1990 and 1991, President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. This expanded protection to vulnerable populations not earlier protected by the EEOC.
Affirmative action and equal opportunity policies remained unchanged until 2000 when the US Department of Labor issued a regulation for government contractors to report the hiring, termination, promotion, and compensation for minorities and women. This was an attempt by the US Department of Labor to promote equal pay.
In 2008, President George W. Bush amended the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 by signing a new act in 2008, a feat that took effect in 2009. Since 2008, equal opportunity policies for government and non-government entities have remained unchanged.
According to the US Department of Labor, affirmative action steps must be taken by government agencies to recruit and advance qualified minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and protected veterans. The key here is qualification. The applicant must meet all of the job requirements or be able to complete the job requirements with reasonable accommodation. Equal opportunity expands beyond affirmative action because it applies to non-government agencies. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has been amended to protect applicants and employees from discriminative hiring, promotion, termination, pay, benefits, and training opportunities based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion, disabilities, and pregnancy.
To include the Americans of Disabilities Act, the individual must be otherwise qualified to complete the job requirements, with or without reasonable accommodation. This applies to individuals with disabilities and employees older than 40. Affirmative action or EEOC’s intent remains the same regardless of how the law applies to the organization. Employers must take the appropriate steps to ensure all applicants are properly considered at any point in the hiring process. This includes pay, benefits, training opportunities, and consideration for promotion.
The goal of these laws is to protect the individual from discrimination. It is a myth that these laws create undue consideration or favoritism but instead act as a barrier against bias. When organizations strip applicants of identifying data, they can focus on the individual’s qualifications. By doing so, we can all ensure that the best talent is recruited, retained, and promoted. Affirmation Action, EEOC, The Civil Rights Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act all are assurances by the US Department of Labor that each applicant is given a fair and equal opportunity to compete for career advancement.
American Association for Access, Equality and Diversity
US Department of Labor