Equal opportunity programs are human resources activities that provide equal access to employment opportunities and increase workplace diversity. EOP themselves are not mandated by law and their goals may differ from one workplace to another. However, they are based on laws to which employers must adhere. Also, EOP share common ground in that the outcome is for employers to dismantle barriers to equal opportunity employment for women, minorities and under-represented workers in the labor market.
Fundamental to EOP are a number of employment laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Executive Order 11246. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces Title VII, the ADEA and ADA. The U.S. Department of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs enforces Executive Order 11246. The executive order contains regulations for affirmative action for employers that have contracts with the federal government. With these laws as a foundation, employers develop outreach methods to attract, hire and retain a diverse community of applicants and employees.
Employers interested in designing EOP typically create a formal written policy that expresses their commitment to equal opportunity employment. When the highest-ranking leaders of an organization demonstrate their commitment to EOP and fair employment practices, it encourages support among manager, supervisors and staff. The employer’s written policy is published in the employee handbook, posted throughout the workplace and on the company’s website, and printed on employment applications. In addition, employers use the designation “EOE” on job postings to indicate they are equal opportunity employers.
EOP often contain steps that HR staff use to identify workplace issues involving discrimination and unlawful harassment. HR staff develop complaint resolution procedures based on industry best practices and upon the strong recommendation of the EEOC. A complaint-resolution process includes steps employees must take for voicing their concerns to management or to the HR department. The process further involves investigative steps and provisions for alternative dispute resolution. Employers and employees favor alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, because it eliminates the need for formal litigation in the court system and aids in swift resolution of employees’ complaints.
Executive Order 11246 is the law that governs affirmative action for government contractors. Companies that employ 50 or more workers and have at least $50,000 in government contracts for goods or services must develop a written affirmative action plan. AAPs require analyses of applicant logs and workforce utilization of women, minorities, veterans and workers with disabilities. They also require employers to develop outreach methods for expanding their recruitment efforts to appeal to a cross-section of qualified applicants from diverse groups. A common misnomer of AAPs that should never become part of EOP is hiring quotas. The labor department deems hiring quotas unlawful. Affirmative action was not intended to encourage preferential hiring decisions based on non job-related factors, such as age, race, national origin or sex.