What is affirmative action?
Affirmative action is a set of positive steps that employers use
to promote equal employment opportunity and to eliminate discrimination. It
includes expanded outreach, recruitment, mentoring, training, management
development and other programs designed to help employers hire, retain and
advance qualified workers from diverse backgrounds, including persons with
disabilities. Affirmative action means inclusion, not exclusion. Affirmative
action does not mean quotas and is not mandated by the Americans with
Why should people with disabilities be included in affirmative
- To increase the pool of qualified job applicants
available for hiring. Nearly one half of working age people with
disabilities are unemployed. Any one of these individuals may be the best
person for the job an employer is seeking to fill.
- To obtain diverse skills, viewpoints and
backgrounds in the workforce that can lead to improvements in the bottom
line. Including employees with disabilities on product
development, marketing, advertising and sales teams can help employers gain
insight about how best to tap into and serve the disability community.
- To demonstrate to customers a commitment to equal
employment opportunities. Consumers with disabilities control
more than $175 billion in discretionary income. They, like all consumers, are
more likely to patronize businesses where they feel welcome. Accessible stores,
products and services, along with employees with disabilities, will help
customers with disabilities feel that their business is appreciated.
- To comply with the following
laws. Section 503 of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and Section 4212 of the Vietnam Era
Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA), as amended, require
federal contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative action to ensure
that all individuals have an equal opportunity for employment, without regard
to disability or status as a Vietnam era or "special disabled" veteran.
Government contracts of more than $10,000 must include a clause that a
contractor agrees to take affirmative action to employ, advance in employment,
and treat qualified individuals with disabilities without discrimination in all
employment practices. When a government contractor has 50 or more employees and
a contract of $50,000 or more, the contractor also must prepare and maintain an
affirmative action program.
As part of this program, contractors are obligated to institute
outreach and recruitment efforts to employ and advance qualified individuals
with disabilities at all levels of employment, including the executive level.
The U.S. Department of Labor is responsible for administering Sections 503 and
4212 through its Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). If
OFCCP determines that a contractor has violated these provisions, it may impose
a variety of sanctions, including canceling, terminating or suspending a
contract or debarring the contractor from future government contracts.
What are the components of a successful affirmative action plan
to recruit, employ and advance people with
OFCCP regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation
Act require covered federal contractors and subcontractors to develop
affirmative action plans that include the 10 major components outlined below.
These are equally effective for employers that are voluntarily implementing
affirmative action plans. An employer should:
- Assign a company official to be responsible for the
implementation of affirmative action activities.
- Prepare and post an equal opportunity policy statement.
- Review personnel processes to ensure job applicants and
employees with disabilities are considered for all job vacancies and training
opportunities, and are not stereotyped in a manner which limits their access to
all jobs for which they are qualified.
- Review all job qualification standards to ensure that they are
job-related for the position in question and consistent with business
- Make reasonable accommodations to the known functional
limitations of otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities.
- Develop and implement procedures to ensure that employees with
disabilities are not harassed because of disability.
- Undertake appropriate outreach and positive recruitment
activities such as:
a. establishing formal arrangements for applicant
referrals with recruitment sources such as state employment security agencies,
state vocational rehabilitation agencies, college placement offices, labor
organizations and organizations of or for individuals with disabilities;
b. participating in work-study programs with schools which specialize in
training or educating individuals with disabilities;
current employees with disabilities in promotional literature and career
d. sending written notification of company affirmative
action policy to subcontractors, vendors and suppliers; and
considering applicants with known disabilities for all available positions for
which they may be qualified, not just for which they have applied.
- Train all personnel involved in recruitment, screening,
selection, promotion, disciplinary action and related processes to ensure that
affirmative action steps are taken.
- Develop procedures to disseminate information about affirmative
action policies within a company in order to ensure greater employee
cooperation and participation.
- Design and implement an audit and reporting system to measure
the effectiveness of an affirmative action program. Where an affirmative action
program is found to be deficient, actions must be taken to remedy the
Where can I obtain additional
Updated April 2003