Let’s back up a little bit…in the last blog about the History of Affirmative Action (dated 11/18/14), I stated that the first ‘true’ Affirmative Action directive was FDR’s Executive Order 8802 that promoted the idea that if taxpayer funds were accepted through a government contract, then all taxpayers should have an equal opportunity to worth through the contractor. Truman continued FDR’s path and issued three (3) Executive Orders during his tenure as President, basically attempting to eliminate discrimination in the military as well as ending discrimination in Federal hiring practices. His final Executive Order created an Anti-Discrimination committee in order to be responsible for the compliance with all the former Executive Orders!!! Dwight Eisenhower felt that hiring practices and anti-discrimination laws should be decided by the states, although his administration gradually, albeit slowly, continued to desegregate the armed forces and the federal government.
John F. Kennedy ran for President on a platform of criticism of President Eisenhower for not ending discrimination in federally supported housing and advocated a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission. Shortly after taking office, he issued another Executive Order requiring government contractors “to take ‘affirmative action’ to ensure that applicants are employed and that employees are treated during employment without regard to their race, creed, color or national origin”. Another Executive Order was issued in June of 1963 which affirmed Kennedy’s prior Executive Order and insured that all federal funds such as ‘grants, loans, etc., and other forms of financial assistance to state and local governments, and all who accepted taxpayer funds such as unions, employers, etc., were forced to comply with the government’s policies on affirmative action in employment practices”.
LBJ’s Civil Rights Act seemed to tie everything together. This came shortly after Kennedy’s assassination. The most significant of all was Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which aimed to end discrimination in all firms with 25 or more employees. Another provision established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as the agency charged with ending discrimination in the nation’s workplace. There was a great deal of controversy about Title VII, with conservatives shouting that it was advocating a quota system. On July 2, 1964, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law by President Johnson. At the time, a Harris poll was conducted and 70% of all American citizens approved the Act.
Believe it or not….again, an interesting caveat…President Nixon was the first one to actually ‘require’ a type of ‘quota’ system with his Philadelphia project. Historically, the construction industry was one of the most egregious offenders against equal employment laws…contractors were openly hostile toward hiring blacks and women or even letting them into their circles…Nixon’s order included definitive ‘goals and timetables’. The test for this new order was in Philadelphia…appropriately called the ‘Philadelphia Plan’.
In the short duration of the Ford Administration, Affirmative Action became less prevalent…however, enforcement did stumble along. Over the years, there have been many additional strides in Affirmative Action, including but not limited to the Griggs v. Duke Power Company (1971) issue which affirmed that employees cannot be given tests that discriminate against them if they can do the job without showing the ability to pass the test…Duke Power was requiring a high school diploma and an IQ test for each employee; the test was discriminating against many African Americans due to the fact that at this time, many did not have a high school diploma and some had lower IQ scores. It was determined that the job could be completed just as well without a high school diploma as with a high school diploma and an IQ test was not a just and fair evaluator for this particular position.
The famous Regents of the University of California v. Bakke case was ruled by the Supreme Court in favor of a form of quota system for underrepresented minorities. Justice Powell’s decision in the majority upheld diversity in higher education as a ‘compelling interest’ and held that race could be one of the factors in university admissions. Other famous Affirmative Action, higher education decisions are the Supreme Court case of Gratz v. Bollinger (potential undergraduate student vs. the University of Michigan) where it was ruled that race could not be considered as a primary factor in admission to Universities and that the University of Michigan, in essence, admitted based on an illegally structured ‘quota’ system. The actual practice of Affirmative Action without a definitive ‘quota’ system was upheld in the Supreme Court decision of Grutter v. Bollinger (potential law school student vs. the University of Michigan)….whereby, diversity did become an issue in this Supreme Court decision and it was upheld for the University of Michigan to continue its practices of allowing diversity with the highest of standards.
In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed which protected people with disabilities as a group. There have been many local and state laws, propositions and initiatives passed that have refined former Executives Orders and laws as well as support them. We have come a long way in dealing with minority issues in all aspects of our society, but there is still room for improvement.
Basically, when it comes to the workplace environment, the following is what one has to remember: Each non-construction contractor/subcontractor with 50 or more employees is required to develop a written Affirmative Action Program (AAP) for each of its establishments within 120 days from the start of the Federal contract, if it:
*Has a Federal contract or subcontract of $50,000 or more;
*Has government bills of lading which in any 12-month period total, or can reasonably be expected to total, $50,000 or more;
*Serves as a depository of Federal funds in any amount; or
*Is a financial institution that is an issuing and paying agent for US Savings bonds and savings notes in any amount.
All construction contractors and subcontractors who hold a Federal or Federal assisted construction contract in excess of $10,000 will be subject to regulatory requirements under one or more of the laws enforced by OFCCP depending upon the amount of the contract. Once it is determined that a contractor or subcontractor is subject to OFCCP jurisdiction, the regulations implementing the civil rights requirements enforced by OFCCP apply to all of the contractors or subcontractors’ employees who are engaged in onsite construction, including those construction employees who work on a non-federal or non-federally assisted construction site.
I sometimes get tears in my eyes when I read about the history of any group or individuals overcoming oppression. I’ve experienced it in my very own personal way. I don’t understand how employers can take advantage of employees in any capacity….and complying with Affirmative Action or anti-discrimination is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve had employees in my office while serving at various positions over the year, crying to me of the treatment, the working conditions, the verbal abuse, the ‘entitlement’ of the corporate owners, etc. I find that I want to right any injustice that I see….however, just likeCondaleeza Rice (George W. Bush’s National Security Advisor and Secretary of State), an African American women who clearly states that she will buck anyone who says that Affirmative Action doesn’t work for she truly believes that she is a product of Affirmative Action….and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was in the second class of students accepted after Princeton University introduced its Affirmative Action plan. I would like to believe that these ‘great’ women would never have slipped through the cracks, however, I’m also glad that Affirmative Action regulations were in place to insure me and the rest of the American public that the did not…..
If you believe that your organization has any need to comply with present day Affirmative Action requirements, please feel free to contact me (Rosanne Turczyn-Bennett) firstname.lastname@example.org or at 484-798-1236. If you have not read Part I of the Affirmative Action piece, please go to the blog dated November 18, 2014.