Magazine article Personnel

Where Has EEO Taken Personnel Policies?

Magazine article Personnel

Where Has EEO Taken Personnel Policies?

Article excerpt

Where Has EEO Taken Personnel Policies?

A research study in Tennessee sheds light on how EEO/AA laws influenced the development of some personnel policies.

How have federal laws on equal employment opportunity affected personnel management policies? Some answers emerged from a study we conducted of Tennessee manufacturing firms with 100 or more employees (see study methodology on page 66). The EEO laws included Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Act of 1974, and certain executive orders.

In general, these laws--which were passed in the 1960s and 1970s--preceded the development of EEO/AA personnel policies among the respondent companies. The most recent legal development in this area was a Supreme Court ruling (Wards Cove Packing v. Atonia, handed down June 5, 1989) with implications for Title VII discrimination lawsuits based on "disparate impact" (suits in which the plaintiff claims that certain practices, though not overtly discriminatory, have a discriminatory effect). The 5-4 ruling relieves the employer of the burden of proof--that is, of proving that the practices are justified by business necessity. (See "In Focus," in the August 1989 issue of Personnel, page 4.) The effect of this ruling on EEO/AA policies remains to be seen. In the meantime, back to our study.

Status of EEO/AA Policies

We investigated the relationship between when EEO policies were instituted (in the responding firms) and when the EEO laws were passed. Exhibit 1 shows the respondents' EEO/AA policies, their frequencies, and their percentages in terms of when the policies were formulated or changed, thus providing an impression of how manufacturing firms responded to the EEO laws and regulations. Not surprisingly, many of the EEO/AA policies listed were formulated after the passage of one or more EEO laws or were never formulated at all.

The first group of EEO/AA policies, referred to as management strategy, lists policies that show how the manufacturing firms approached EEO/AA goals. Most of these policies apparently arose in response to the passage of one or more EEO laws. Policies in this group include discrimination in employment, the description of EEO/AA policy as part of new-employee orientation, EEO/AA training sessions for supervisors and managers, the dissemination of EEO/AA news, and the rewarding of managers for good performance in EEO/AA. This last policy is apparently unaffected by the EEO laws--not surprising, since this policy is voluntary and has little to do with complying with EEO regulations.

The remaining policies in this exhibit indicate how firms executed their EEO/AA management strategies with respect to specific policies for recruitment and selection, training and development, and union-management relations. Half the policies listed under recruitment and selection were either changed or implemented after the enactment of one or more EEO laws: labor market studies with respect to sex and minority affiliation, recruiting from minority and women's schools and organizations, and keeping records about selection processes.

Most manufacturing firms reported that the other half of the policies listed in this section did not exist in their organizations. These policies include advertising in minority and women's publications, using psychological and skill tests in the selection process, and conducting validation studies to improve the selection process. One possible explanation for these policies' absence in many firms is that their implementation requires specialized skills and technical knowledge that may be hard for some establishments (especially the smaller ones) to acquire.

We used the chi-square test to determine the effect of a firm's size on the use of psychological and skill tests and on the use of validation studies. …

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