The U.S. government first required affirmative action in 1965 as a way to remedy past discrimination against minorities, women, and others protected by law against discrimination. Affirmative action means that a company must take steps to increase the participation of protected groups in its workforce.
Audit your affirmative action policies and practices with the Employment Practices Self-Audit Workbook
Sometimes a company voluntarily develops an affirmative action plan (AAP) as a blueprint for hiring employees from protected groups. AAPs often have many of the same goals as diversity programs, but the two programs are not the same.
Diversity programs are typically voluntary and are more comprehensive than AAPs. Both types of plans help achieve workplace diversity and include specific steps on recruiting and hiring. With both programs, however, companies can’t make employment decisions based on race, sex, or other protected characteristic or condition.
Some companies that are required by law to establish written AAPs include those that fit into at least one of the following categories:
- A nonconstruction employer with at least 50 employees and U.S. government contracts or subcontracts worth at least $50,000. If you have at least 50 employees and several small government contracts that add up to $50,000, you’re covered. If you’re a branch office of a bigger company with the required number of employees and contracts, you’re covered even though your office doesn’t handle the contracts or have 50 employees. (Note: construction employers have separate affirmative action obligations set by the federal government. Check with employment counsel for more information.)
- A depository of any amount of government funds.
- An issuing and paying agent of U.S. government bonds.
- An employer required by a judge to create a written AAP as part of a court judgement against it.
- An employer that has agreed, with court approval, to implement a written AAP as part of a consent decree to settle a discrimination lawsuit.
Your company also may have additional, separate affirmative action obligations set by state and local governments, so check with employment counsel to meet your local requirements.
State-by-state comparision of 50 Employment Laws in 50 States, including affirmative action