Discrimination has existed since time immemorial, and people of color and women have been the major victims. This section of the book describes the legal approach in managing discrimination. Of particular interest are the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Law and the Affirmative Action (AA). EEO strengthens individual’s rights to equal employment opportunity and better jobs. In case of unfairness, the individuals (employees) need to take action and complain about it. AA requires the employers to consider the minority (under-represented groups) and offer them better jobs. The challenge however, is that, most people do not understand the legal approach well. Many minorities, including women, don’t know why they need it. Euro-American men also tend to resist it. This paper gives an in-depth account of EEO and AA, highlighting how they came about, what they mean, how they are applied, and the benefits and limitations.
EEO was established by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and amended in 1972. It makes it illegal (unlawful) for an employer with over 15 employees to refuse or fail to hire or to discharge any individual, or discriminate against any individual in terms of compensation, terms/conditions of service, or privilege on the basis of the individual’s race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. EEO also makes it illegal for an employer to segregate, classify, or limit employees or applicants for employment in any manner that would deprive them of the employment opportunities or affect their status as employees.
EEO allows individuals who are discriminated against to launch complaint to their employers or report to a regional EEO Commission office and file a complaint if the employer failed to satisfy the complaint. If the commission fails, the individual is free to file a lawsuit for the court to settle the matter. The law prohibits harassment, hostile work environment, and objectionable behavior.
EEO law empowers the employees to directly deal with job discrimination. An employee can sue if a given policy or practice has desperate impact on the employee, particularly on the ethnic, religion or gender. The disadvantage however, is that, proving discrimination is extremely difficult.
AA is a legal program designed to eliminate unfair workplace discrimination against a group of people who have historically experienced such discrimination. There are two types of discrimination prohibited by the law: disparate treatment (treating an employee from a protected group in a different way compared to how the other employees are treated), and disparate impact (using an employment practice that is not essential to the job or acting in a manner that systematically disadvantages a protected group). The former focuses on equal opportunity while the latter focuses on equal outcomes.
There are six AA principles. The first principle is the problem-remedy approach which postulates that discrimination is an entrenched problem and cannot be resolved without the AA remedy. Secondly, color-blind remedies don’t work. Colorblind laws cannot change discrimination. It is a self-perpetuating process that cannot end without AA to break the cycle and create new and more equitable processes. Thirdly, hiring quotas are illegal and cannot be imposed on an employer by normal AA law. Companies set their own numerical goals. Fourth, AA doesn’t dictate the lower standards. Fifth, stigma is manageable. Finally, AA is not reverse discrimination.
The two main problems with implementing AA are poor HR planning, and too few and weak penalties for failing to achieve the AA goals. It’s, however, clear that AA is still essential, hate crimes are still a problem, and intolerant groups still exist.
CARR-RUFFINO, N. (2009). Managing Diversity People Skills for a Multicultural Workplace. Pearson Custom Publishing.