The concept of affirmative action requires Federal contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative action to ensure that all individuals have an equal opportunity for employment, without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or status as a Vietnam era or special disabled veteran.
Initially, the goal of affirmative action was to compensate minorities for past discrimination and prevent future employment discrimination by eliminating the barriers that limit employment opportunity. Essentially, employers are encouraged to hire minorities, women, handicapped individuals and veterans.
Executive Order 11246, Equal Employment Opportunity, as amended, requires government contractors to take affirmative action to insure that equal opportunity is provided in all aspects of their employment. Each government contractor with 50 or more employees and $50,000 or more in government contracts is required to develop a written affirmative action program. The plan helps the contractor identify and analyze potential problems in the participation and utilization of women and minorities in the contractor's workforce. The contractor must outline the specific procedures it will follow and the good faith efforts it will make to address problems and provide equal employment opportunity.
Opponents argue that affirmative action is reverse discrimination and assert that hiring practices should be based on qualifications, not race or sex.
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