Q: What is Affirmative Action?
Affirmative action constitutes a good faith effort by employers to address past and/or present discrimination through a variety of specific, results-oriented procedures. This good faith effort may involve measures taken beyond equal opportunity laws that simply ban discriminatory practices.
Affirmative action is usually associated with employment practices, but it also applies to college admissions and the awarding of government contracts.
Federal, state and local governments, federal contractors, and subcontractors with contracts of $50,000 or more are required to implement affirmative action programs in employment. Colleges and universities are also included in this category.
In rare cases, a private employer may be ordered to remedy a specific practice or pattern of discrimination by implementing "remedial" affirmative action measures.
Q: How does Affirmative Action differ from Equal Employment Opportunity?
Equal Employment Opportunity mandates non-discriminatory practices in hiring, firing, and all other aspects of employment, while affirmative action is a detailed, results-oriented set of procedures prepared and approved in accordance with Section 46a-68 of the Connecticut General Statutes. These procedures serve as a blueprint for a strategy to combat discrimination and create a diverse workforce or student body.
Q: Is cultural diversity an extension of Affirmative Action?
No. The goal of affirmative action is to create a diverse workforce and provide upward mobility to women and minorities. The goal of cultural diversity is to create a process by which an institution can respond to the needs and differences of all individuals regardless of their race, gender, physical or mental status, sexual orientation, and ethnic or cultural background. Cultural diversity focuses on fostering a climate in which people of all identities and from all backgrounds learn to work and live respectfully together.
Q: Who is a minority?
For affirmative action purposes, minorities have been defined by federal and state laws as Blacks (Non-Hispanic), Hispanics, American Indians or Alaskan Natives, and Asians or Pacific Islanders.
Q: Are Affirmative Action goals another way of saying "quotas for minorities"?
Absolutely not. Only the courts can set hiring quotas. This is done only when an employer is found guilty of discrimination. Affirmative Action goals only ask that an employer make a good faith effort.
Q: Does Affirmative Action really mean preferential treatment for women and members of minority groups?
No. What it means is that an organized effort is being made to ensure that minority groups and women, along with others, are equitably represented in the workforce. Because of a history of under-representation, we are taking positive steps to carefully consider all qualified candidates for jobs with particular attention to placing qualified women and minority members in slots where they are typically under-represented. In practice, affirmative action should help anyone who has been subjected to discrimination.
Q: Is affirmative action a form of reverse discrimination?
No. The concept of affirmative action addresses the fact that discrimination against members of minority groups and women has been a part of our nation's history and continues to exist. Learning to value the contributions of women and minorities requires a change in how we think. It does not mean devaluing the contributions of others. In selecting final job candidates we also take into consideration whether that candidate would be seen as a person other employees and students could identify with and as a person who could offer a range of perspectives. However, no one should be selected solely because of their membership in any group; similarly, no one should be rejected on that basis.
Q: Is it true that once we hire a minority or woman, we cannot ever fire him or her?
No. The standards for achievement, job requirements, and job expectations must be equally applied to all individuals. The terms of employment and performance are the same for everyone.
This website was compiled by Judy Kirmmse, Affirmative Action Officer at Connecticut College, and Yalidy Mercedes Matos '09.