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 Bush.
Both resisted expansion in government contracting, and court decisions began to negate some affirmative action programs. Universities and businesses were struggling to conform to theguidelines of affirmative action while still maintaining certain standardsof operation. Eventually, many of these programs were either scaled-back or set-aside altogether. In the 1990s, Clinton vowed to “mend, not end” affirmative action programs. He began to reevaluate the programs of several federal agencies, which some believe had positive results. ` There are many arguments for affirmative action in hiring and employment practices. Historically, almost 90% of all jobs are filled internally, with positions going to relatives and friends of those already employed. Employers often fill these positions with people who are under-qualified, and had the position been advertised properly, the hiring managers may have found a better candidate for the job. Affirmative action has “encouraged many companies to engage in employment practices that set minimum standards of job definition, recruiting, outreach, and evaluation hat result in choosingthe right person for the job” (Diverse Strategies). These practices also promote diversity. When properly managed, diversity can “increase creativity and innovation in organizations as well as improve decision making by providing different perspectives on problems” (Judge, 20). Greater diversity in certain fields, such as medicine and law, will increase the aid given to underrepresented groups. ` ` The main focus of affirmative action, however, is to level the playing field and counter both ongoing discrimination as well as bigoted attitudes.
Even in this day and age, minorities and women continue to lag behind white Anglo-Saxon protestant men in the business world. Male employees may be promoted over women, because some companies still put women on a “mommy track” without their consent, and many people publicly lie about how they feel with regards to race. Studies have shown that many people “found it easier to link women’s names with home-related words than with career-related words” (Kowalski, 45), and test subjects “are often quicker at linking black faces with negative words than with positive words” (Kowalski, 45). ` With all of these arguments for affirmative action, there are still critics that believe these policies not only perpetuate continued racial tension, but alsolead members of these groups to believe they cannot succeed on their own. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is quoted saying “It never ceases to amaze me that the courts are so willing to assume that anything that is predominantly black must be inferior. ” Affirmative action is also seen to stigmatize people.
Others may assume that someone obtained their position because of affirmative action, and this breeds resentment and anger. People relate to each other as either inside or outside the groups benefiting from affirmative action, and it becomes a “them versus us” mentality. Managers,who have never done anything wrong, may feel painted with a bigot or chauvinist brush. ` ` Opponents of affirmative action also believe itviolates the idea of a merit system. Choices in hiring, raises, and promotions should benefit the people who worked hard and deserve them.
Any hiring decision istheresult of an interview, given bymanagers who already have ideas about the qualities an employee should have, and as such, should be based on the skills and education the candidate brings to the table. Managers feel constrained by words such as “quota” and “preferential treatment” when it comes to hiring decisions, and developa negative outlook on the idea of affirmative action. ` ` Not only do managers find it interferes with hiring decisions, many businessesalso feel that affirmative action is a burdensome procedure.
Scores of businesses protested “they were wasting too much time on paperwork and spending too much money defending themselves against discrimination charges” (Anderson, 167). During the Reagan years, research into the cost of affirmative action policies for businessesestimated that “a contract compliance review cost a contractor over $20,000, and that such appraisals were costing the Fortune 500companies $1 billion annually” (Anderson, 167;that estimate has only grown. ` Another issue is that some employees, or potential employees, now use affirmative action as a form of revenge if they feel they have been slighted in some way, such as by not being hired or notreceivinga promotion. It is very difficult to prove that someone was discriminated against based on their race or gender, but the case can still take many court hours and much money. Because of this, many businesses are more likely to settle out of court, rather than tie up thousands of dollars in court fees.
This ends with the company taking a financial hit and the angry employee with a settlement. ` ` Since the introduction of affirmative action in the 1960s, affirmative action has had many implications for businesses. Businesses now have to fill certain quotas based on how many people they have working for them, they are subject to reviews of their policies and procedures,and businesses owned by minorities and females are given special privileges and loans that are not offered to others.
Businesses arealso responsible for the financial burdens placedon them as a result of affirmative action. Many employees feelthat affirmative action is “reverse discrimination”,because hiring managers are openly favoring one group over another based on their race or gender,and many believe affirmative actioncontinues to perpetuate racial tension. ` ` With all of these issues, it’s no wonder that some peoplehave negative feelings and attitudes toward affirmative action.
They feel that jobs should be given to the people that most deserve them, and that raises and promotions shouldbeawarded basedon the merit system. It is impossible for businesses to operate fairly to all within the guidelines of affirmative action since, by definition,it requires businesses to base their hiring standards on what the government requires rather than ontheir business needs. Hiringthe best possible candidate for a job, no matter what race or gender, should be the main goal when making hiring decisions, and not what minority group may be underrepresented in your company.
As long as affirmative action is law, businesses will have to finda way to meet its requirements or face harsh fines and lawsuits, and while there are many compelling arguments against affirmative action, its policies will not be changed any time soon. ` Works Cited “Encyclopedia of Small Business/ Affirmative Action”. eNotes. com. April 8, 2009 http://www. enotes. com/small-business-encyclopedia/affirmative-action. com. Anderson, Terry H. . The Pursuit of Fairness: A History of Affirmative Action. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc. , 2004. Coulter, Ann. How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must).
New York, NY: Crown Forum, 2004. Grapes, Bryan J. . Affirmative Action. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, Inc. , 2000. Judge Timothy A. , and Robbins, Stephen P.. Organizational Behavior. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc. , 2009. Kowalski, Kathiann M. . Open for Debate: Affirmative Action. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2007. Skrentny, John D.. The Minority Rights Revolution. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2002. Tong, Clifford M.. “Diverse Strategies”. Diverse Strategies Incorporated. April 8, 2009 http://www. diversestrategies. com/Affirmative_action. htm.
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