Implications of Affirmative Action on Business
` Affirmative actionprograms, as we know them, are less than 50 years old, and are usually viewedas a series ofpositive steps taken to ensure the representation of minority groups in fields that have traditionallyexcluded them. It protects both racial and ethnic minorities, as well as women, in the areas of education, business, and government. Affirmative action, whichhas its roots in the Constitutional ideal of equal opportunity, is the government’s way of both eliminating inequality and making amends for past discrimination. Sometimes viewed as “reverse discrimination” for blatantly favoring one group over another, affirmative action programs often differ in the extent to which they attempt to rectify discrimination by either instituting reviews of the hiring process for minority groups or explicitly preferring members of select groups.In many ways, affirmative action has helped women and minority groups obtain and keep positions in either work or school that they would otherwise have been unable to attain.However, since the beginning of affirmative action in the 1960s, these policies have had many implications for businesses—both positive and negative—and have instituted many changes. ` ` President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10925 in March of 1961. The order was originally designed with governmentcontractors in mind, and stated thatsaid contractors would “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during their employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” Executive Order 10925 did not advocate special treatment of minority groups, as would later come to pass, but was initially intended to eliminate discrimination from hiring and employment practices. In Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,the government’s position on the policy of affirmative action was solidified, and a new branch of the U.S. Department of Labor was created: the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).The purpose of the EEOC was to serve as a mediator between plaintiffs and private employers who disregarded the tenets ofaffirmative action, and to ensure restitution to the affected. These changes to hiring and employment practices caused many to voice concerns: Should minority groups receive preferential treatment in fields they were previously excluded from? Does this constitute a violation of the principle of equal opportunity in the form of “reverse discrimination”? ` ` In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11246 which required government contractors to actually document their efforts to ensure equality in hiring practices, and gave the Secretary of Labor the right to investigate and rectify anyaccusations of discrimination. “The government could punish violations of the order by canceling contracts, barring companies from future contracts, and other measures” (Kowalski, 27). In 1967, Johnson’sorder was furtherexpanded by Executive Order 11375 to include women as well as minorities and, in 1968, under the administration of President Nixon, specific goals or “quotas” for the hiring of women and minorities wasinstituted.By 1972, the “four-fifths rule” was in effect, which “held that firms contracting with the federal government should not be allowed to hire any race, sex, or ethnic group at a rate below four-fifths that of any other group” (eNotes).The EEOC was also strengthened in 1972 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act. Now, the Commission was able to file class action law suits against corporations in violation of affirmative action policies.The Carter administration, in 1977, initiated the Public Works Employment Act, requiringat least ten percent of federal money given to certain projectsto be allocated toboth minority and women business enterprises. ` ` During the 1980s, affirmative action felt little government support under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George...
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