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Affirmative Action Planning: Federal

Author: Peter S. Saucier, Kollman & Saucier, PA


  • Affirmative action is a part of employment law that brings together theoretical aspirations and concrete action. It is easy to agree with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that all persons "will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Affirmative action planning is a way to try to attain that goal.
  • Some employers take upon themselves the obligation to try to bring about a more equal representation for a protected class of workers. In other cases, governments, particularly the federal executive branch, step in to try to accomplish the intended ends. In either case, being informed about the legal standing of affirmative action efforts and the mechanics of preparing a proper affirmative action program is indispensable. See The Law of Affirmative Action.
  • The Supreme Court ruled long ago that all persons are protected against discrimination, including whites and men. Affirmative action planning must not step over the line into discrimination against the majority. Planning is an important third word in the title of this Section. Absent careful planning, trouble is almost sure to follow any employer who undertakes affirmative action efforts. See Affirmative Action Planning Components Under Executive Orders.
  • Affirmative action planning as a requirement of contracting with the government arises under Executive Orders for race and sex. Meanwhile, planning for individuals with disabilities and veterans stems for legislative action. In all cases, the government has introduced regulations designed to meet the legal standards of protecting against discrimination while advancing the employment profiles for groups considered to be disadvantaged.
  • The current rules and regulations are old and often difficult to apply. They require review and self-critique of an employer's policies, practices and efforts in undertaking affirmative action. For race and sex based affirmative action planning, statistical analysis is a key focus. See The Statistical Sections.
  • New regulations have strengthened the affirmative action requirements for contractors in certain areas. See OFCCP Disability and Veterans Hiring Rules.
  • The federal government actively oversees affirmative action planning through the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), a branch of the Department of Labor. The OFCCP conducts audits and undertakes enforcement of legal obligations. It has the authority to obtain redress, including substantial cash settlements and a ban on receiving federal funds. See OFCCP Audits.
  • Affirmative action planning is the legal realm where the so-called Glass Ceiling Initiative is found. The federal government considers the payment of wages, reviewed on the basis of race and sex, as integral to affirmative action planning. Similarly, promotion and advancement of women and minorities receives special scrutiny. See Wage Analysis.
  • Affirmative action employers that fail to keep good track of applicant flow for job openings do so at their peril. See Recordkeeping and Data.
  • The OFCCP has issued final rules that will soon impose additional requirements on federal contractors regarding applicants with disabilites as well as veterans.