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Affirmative Action: Definition and Effects on Diversity in the Workplace

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  • 0:05 Affirmative Action
  • 1:37 Protected Groups
  • 2:27 Adverse Impact
  • 2:57 Diversity Equals AA
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Lombardo
Affirmative action creates a diverse workplace for organizations. Legislation was passed to help protected groups not have an adverse impact on employment opportunities. In this lesson, find out the difference between protected groups and adverse impacts.

Affirmative Action

A diversified workforce is built on three principles: affirmative action (AA), equal employment opportunity (EEO) and diversity. Companies are embracing diversity in order to remain competitive in the global world. Unfortunately, this was not always the case. In order to help rectify years of discrimination, legal acts were passed in the United States. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed. It included a specific piece of legislation called Title VII, which protected against employment discrimination on the basis of race, ethnic background, gender or religious practices. The idea behind the legislation was that it would level the playing field and give everyone an equal opportunity.

The Civil Rights Act also gave birth to the federal agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This agency was to police any discrimination in organizations. The legal changes created a new concept for organizations to follow called affirmative action, which consists of voluntary guidelines for companies to follow to make sure that jobs are available to qualified individuals regardless of sex, age or ethnic and religious background. Let's take a look at how affirmative action works within an organization's walls. The two keys terms that will help explain the focus of affirmative action are protected groups and adverse impact.

Protected Groups

Deema is a worker at a fruit wholesaler. She is a practicing Muslim, and she wears a hijab (or head covering) to work each day. She has worked for the fruit company for over a year. In the past year, she has excelled in her job and recently applied for a promotion in the accounting department. Her competition is another woman who did not have the same amount of experience as Deema. Unfortunately, Deema did not get the position, and she has recently found out through coworkers that it was due to the fact that the accounting manager felt that Deema's dress was inappropriate at work. Deema heard that the boss said that Deema was being disrespectful by wearing a 'hat' at work. Deema would be considered a member of a protected group since she has been identified as a previous target for employment discrimination.

Adverse Impact

Deema was treated unfairly, so she was facing an adverse impact. This is when members of a protected group are treated unfairly by an employer's personnel action. Deema called for an investigation. She contacted the state agency who investigated Deema's claims and found out that she was correct in her assumption that the company was in violation of the guidelines established for affirmative action. Deema's experience should have been considered for the position, and her head attire should not have been a factor.

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