Affirmative Action

AuthorTim Barnett

Page 3

Affirmative action is a descriptive phrase for policies and programs designed to correct the effects of past discrimination and increase the representation of historically disadvantaged groups, including women and African Americans. Affirmative action plans exist in the private and public sectors and involve the hiring of job applicants, the selection of contractors for government projects, and the admission of students to undergraduate and graduate educational institutions. Some employers, educational institutions, and government agencies are legally required by executive order to have affirmative action plans. Others may be ordered to develop affirmative action plans as part of a court finding that they have discriminated against individuals or groups. Still others voluntarily develop such plans because they believe it is good public policy, or that it provides them with a competitive advantage.


Although the roots of affirmative action in the United States go back to the nineteenth century, modern affirmative action plans originated with executive orders issued by Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon in the 1960s. Executive Order 11246, signed by President Johnson in 1965, required government agencies, contractors, and subcontractors to undertake affirmative action to remedy past discrimination in education, training, and employment. In 1969 President Nixon further strengthened affirmative action through Executive Order 11478, which required government contractors to develop goals for increasing the representation of historically disadvantaged groups and timetables for achieving them.

As amended in subsequent years, these executive orders eventually required all government agencies and contractors with annual contracts of $10,000 or more to undertake affirmative action. They also required agencies and contractors with 50 employees and government business of $50,000 or more to have written affirmative action plans. These written plans must include a utilization analysis, which compares the composition of the entity's workforce to the proportion of women and minorities in the available labor market. If underutilization is found, the agency or contractor must set specific goals and timetables for remedying the "imbalance" and develop specific plans for...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT