Academic journal article Labor Law Journal

Affirmative Action: How Can We Be So Lost When We Don't Even Know Where We Are Going?

Academic journal article Labor Law Journal

Affirmative Action: How Can We Be So Lost When We Don't Even Know Where We Are Going?

Article excerpt

Over the past forty years, corporate America has devoted a great deal of time, money, and energy to compliance with employment equity and affirmative action policies.1 Yet despite this huge investment, many U.S. companies still do not have a roadmap for implementing and promoting an affirmative action program. Further, many of the existing roadmaps fail to note the blind alleys and detours that can hinder progress to the ultimate goal of an affirmative action plan that satisfies government regulations, facilitates the careers of traditionally underrepresented groups, and is considered fair by all concerned. This article presents a brief history of affirmative action and, from a corporate perspective, provides guidance for implementing and sustaining a successful affirmative action program.

HISTORY OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

"You cannot know who you are if you do not know where you came from." Never lias this old adage been as true as in the case of affirmative action. One might argue that the roots of government-imposed affirmative action extend back to President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and to the Reconstruction period that briefly followed the Civil War.2 Contemporary affirmative action, however, has been strongly shaped by Presidential executive orders.3 The next major step was also driven by wartime necessity when President Roosevelt signed three executive orders that prohibited discriminatory employment practices by defense contractors and the federal government.4 Additional executive orders along these lines were signed by Presidents Truman5 in 1948 and Eisenhower6 in the early 1950s, the latter of whom included non-defense contractors and a list of discriminatory acts. In 1961 President Kennedy signed Executive Order 10925,7 which was the first executive order to include the term "affirmative action." This was also the first executive order to include sanctions and penalties, but they were administratively weak and no case was ever prosecuted under them. All the executive orders to this point prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, creed (religion), color, or national origin; none covered sex.

After President Kennedy's death, President Johnson pushed the 1964 Civil Rights Acts8 through Congress. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.9 President Johnson went further by making it clear that additional "affirmative actions" were sometimes necessary, and that such actions required more than a commitment to impartial treatment and a cessation of discrimination. He endorsed the view that affirmative action could be a remedy for past injustices in areas of education, training, and employment. As such, those groups that suffered such injustice had first to be made whole by specific efforts to afford them equal employment opportunities. In other words, it was not enough to simply stop discriminating. Explicit policies had to be implemented to afford employment opportunities and to protect against propagation of discriminatory practices in the future. President Johnson codified this approach in 1965 with Executive Order 11246,10 which prohibited discrimination in employment decisions among federal contractors on the basis of race, religion, color, and national origin; he added sex in 1968. Importantly, this executive order contained stronger provisions for sanctions and penalties by authorizing the Department of Labor to impose them directly. In 1969, President Nixon added the requirement for "goals and timetables" in the Philadelphia Order.11 This initially applied only to contractors on federal construction projects; non-construction contractors were added in 1970. Finally, in 1978 President Carter gave enforcement over all affirmative action regulations to the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which is housed in the Department of Labor.12

As it now stands, EO 11246, as amended, requires all federal agencies and federal contractors with annual contracts of $10,000 or more to take affirmative action to eliminate discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, and sex. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.