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View Full Version : "An Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer" does this MEAN anything?


Rusalka
01-05-2007, 09:47 PM
I've been looking for a new job and couldn't help noticing the seemingly ubiquitous
"Company or Agency X is an equal opportunity/Affirmative Action employer" almost everywhere I look. Isn't it illegal *not* to be an equal opportunity employer? What's the point of this statement?

Then of course there's "Affirmative Action" - I looked that up and I'm really not clear what that means, because the official definition I saw clearly states it's not about quotas. So what benefit does AA give anyone? None of these companies/agencies seemed to be making any special effort to target me or others with "recruiting", for example (I'm female). In fact, I can't EVER remember being on the receiving end of an AA "education" or "recruiting" campaign.

I happen to work in a technical field which is traditionally white and male, so I'm curious what practical ramifications these EE/AA statements really confer.

Shagnasty
01-05-2007, 10:01 PM
HR people have to have some project to do. "Company or Agency X is an equal opportunity" may be both a goodwill gesture but mainly it is just a free bit of defense against discrimination suits although that alone certainly wouldn't be definitive. If they can recruit some good minority candidates and keep a few of them happy for a while, that is one less accusation that they can worry less about. They often say it is about recruiting but I have yet to hear a black person say, "Hey, company X really likes black people. I want to work there." I think the bottom line is that it is something they think they should say so they might as well.

I am skeptical about passive affirmative action as well. The companies that I have worked for that have used that policy do a little recruiting more targeted towards minorities. In practice, passive affirmative action is supposed to mean that if two candidates are a good fit and exactly equal the minority should get the position. In reality, two candidates are never exactly equal and hiring managers are the ones making the final decisions and they aren't going to listen to something like that from HR much. It is another feel good policy based on hypotheticals.

Harriet the Spry
01-06-2007, 01:03 PM
In practice, passive affirmative action is supposed to mean that if two candidates are a good fit and exactly equal the minority should get the position.

Shagnasty, there are some grains of truth in what you say, but the sentence above is not true. I say this as an HR person who has in the past had responsibility, and lots of training, for Affirmative Action Plans.

Almost all companies are required to be Equal Opportunity Employers. However, there are some exceptions for very small companies and those that don't engage in interstate commerce (with interstate commerce interpreted very broadly). Think of a small, family-run restaurant, for example.

Companies that do business with the federal government over $50K per year, or banks that have federal funds on deposit, or certain other specific ways of doing business with the federal government, are required to be Affirmative Action Employers. States and localities can also require companies that do business with them to be AA employers, and some do.

The requirement to be an AA employer is #1 a recordkeeping requirement, with those records subject to audit. In addition to race and sex information about applicants and employees, this also includes records of what the employer does in outreach or training to encourage employment of minorities. It never requires preference or favoritism. In fact those are not permitted under the Executive Order that requires AA.

Copies of ads with the EOE/AA statement are one form of record that can be kept to document the employers AA plan.

To the OP, if you have gone to any conferences of organizations such as "Women in Technology" you probably saw many employers recruiting there. This is something employers might do as part of their affirmative action plan to recruit more women. Or, they might be sponsors of the conference itself. Or a company might make recruiting visits to a women's college when the mix of graduates in terms of majors and competitiveness might not meet their regular criteria for a recruiting visit. Or they might have employees mentor college students who are members of a campus club for women with technical majors.

bouv
01-06-2007, 02:12 PM
Amusing anecdote:

My brother was applying to be a teacher at a local private Catholic high school. The ad said a requirement was to be a Catholic in 'good standing' at a local parish. And there, at the bottom of the ad, was the phrase "St. [Name]'s School is an equal opportunity employer."

:dubious:

Harriet the Spry
01-06-2007, 04:23 PM
While bouv's anecdote does sound odd at first, it is a reasonable situation. Churches are exempt from the religion portion of the EOE laws. Would we want to live in a country where the government tells religious institutions they can't consider religion in hiring? Not likely, since much of the reason people came to the US was to have freedom to practice their religion free from government interference. However, if they meet the other requirements, churches are subject to the other portions of the EOE laws, such as prohibition of discrimination based on race.

Shagnasty
01-06-2007, 04:48 PM
[QUOTE=Harriet the Spry]The requirement to be an AA employer is #1 a recordkeeping requirement, with those records subject to audit. In addition to race and sex information about applicants and employees, this also includes records of what the employer does in outreach or training to encourage employment of minorities. It never requires preference or favoritism. In fact those are not permitted under the Executive Order that requires AA. /QUOTE]

Ok now I am confused. Where is the "affirmative" or the "action" part coming from then. It sounds like a big circle that ends up at nothing. Is there any real affirmative action in business. Everyone is led to believe that it exists somewhere.

Harriet the Spry
01-06-2007, 08:23 PM
Shagnasty, I understand what you mean. It can best be thought of as making more efforts to make sure minorities/women are aware of opportunities and considering more applicants to make sure you don't miss qualified women and minorities. Such things as having a policy of posting all jobs are affirmative and action. Without that, managers have a greater ability to just have "like hire like." Or if an employer recruits from campuses, making sure to advertise at many campuses, not just a few primarily white ones.

Also, keeping all that data, which the government does audit, though not every company every year, allows the government to root out pockets of discrimination that may exist.

Polycarp
01-06-2007, 09:23 PM
When I was administering grants as a private contractor acting in behalf of local governments, they were required by the (New York) state and Federal government agencies awarding the grants to ensure that their contractors were EEO businesses, and to make good faith efforts to expend some small percentage (5% most often) of the grant with woman- and minority-owned businesses, to assure that those often-marginalized businesses got their fair share of federal dollars, and were not elbowed out by larger, more established, better-networked white-male-owned businesses. If you could demonstrate that you'd asked for bids on elements of the funded project from W/MBEs that did the work required by that element, you were showing good faith. We regularly met the WBE quota by setting aside the site-restoration landscaping work as a separate small separately-bid element and using a very diligent woman-owned landscaping business to handle that particular aspect of the work. And everyone benefitted -- her business was assured of a contract or two every year, we got good site restoration, and the intent of the W/MBE clauses in the grant award was met.

Rusalka
01-07-2007, 02:43 AM
Shagnasty, I understand what you mean. It can best be thought of as making more efforts to make sure minorities/women are aware of opportunities and considering more applicants to make sure you don't miss qualified women and minorities. Such things as having a policy of posting all jobs are affirmative and action. Without that, managers have a greater ability to just have "like hire like." Or if an employer recruits from campuses, making sure to advertise at many campuses, not just a few primarily white ones.

Also, keeping all that data, which the government does audit, though not every company every year, allows the government to root out pockets of discrimination that may exist.

See but this is the really useless part, do you really think the government "roots out" pockets of discrimination? Take a look at the credits of any recent animated film sometime and you'll see what I mean. 99% of all animators are men, and I'm not talking about the soft stuff like "management" or "producer" but the nitty gritty artist/creators/technicians. I am not exaggerating, the statistics are absolutely appalling. And computer animation isn't an "old boy's" established business either, it's a very new field, so there's been plenty of time since "women's lib" for a new crop of women to get into it. (I am not connected with this industry, it's just something glaring I've noticed)

The thing that gets me is that AA has a bad rep., and it seems from the answers here it doesn't even really give any advantage to anyone. So there's been a lot of fuss for nothing? What good does recruiting do, if there aren't enough women in a field, and the women in the field never get a chance to get experience because of entrenched attitudes? At some point someone has to say "gee, we really need more diversity, this looks bad", and at that point, you're talking about preferential treatment in some way, shape, or form.

I guess I'm wondering if anyone really worries about percentage of women and minorities, practically speaking, or is it all just talk? So you recruit more women and minorities. Big whup - it doesn't mean they'll get the job, especially with the traditional lack of experience.

Alessan
01-07-2007, 04:38 AM
Putting EOE/MF and so forth at the bottom of an ad is pretty much boilerplate nowadays. Back when I was doing recruitment ads we used to set it on the bottom line whether the client asked for it or not. If they made a stink, we'd say that it was manditory and that they'd get in trouble if they didn't have it.

In other words, it's basically a way to charge clients for an extra line. That's - if I may - the bottom line.

mks57
01-07-2007, 10:53 AM
The thing that gets me is that AA has a bad rep., and it seems from the answers here it doesn't even really give any advantage to anyone. So there's been a lot of fuss for nothing?

You have to make a distinction between theory and practice. I've worked at places where, in an effort to "make the numbers", there were substantial differences in hiring standards between various groups. I know that isn't the way AA is supposed to work, but it was the reality of the situation.

Harriet the Spry
01-07-2007, 03:54 PM
Rusalka, my guess is that many film animating companies are not affirmative action employers. Would they be likely to have $50,000 or more annually in contracts with the federal government? It just seems like the kind of business where that is not especially likely. I do realize you recently saw an ad describing an AA employer, presumably in that field. And I imagine someone does the animation for government training films and military simulations and whatnot. But overall I suspect that's a field where affirmative action is not the norm.

I'd agree that there's a lot of misunderstanding about what AA really is from a legal perspective, and that practice doesn't always follow theory. But the theory really is about record keeping subject to audit and about removing barriers. It never requires the employer to hire other than the most qualified candidate.

Alessan, putting that line at the bottom of the ad for a client who isn't an AA employer is not a good idea. It could be interpreted as creating legal obligations for them as an employer that they would not otherwise have. As always, good customer service means knowing your client. Are they an AA employer?

Alessan
01-08-2007, 03:48 AM
Alessan, putting that line at the bottom of the ad for a client who isn't an AA employer is not a good idea. It could be interpreted as creating legal obligations for them as an employer that they would not otherwise have. As always, good customer service means knowing your client. Are they an AA employer?

I was referring to EOE only. AA was only added if the client asked for it.

Nava
01-08-2007, 06:55 AM
Ok now I am confused. Where is the "affirmative" or the "action" part coming from then. It sounds like a big circle that ends up at nothing. Is there any real affirmative action in business. Everyone is led to believe that it exists somewhere.

IME, YMWV, etc., sometimes it means things like "every manager working for our company gets trained in anti-discrimination issues". Normally, this in turn means that managers in Spain get training about US laws, which are much narrower than Spanish laws on the subject and in any case not applicable... but the intention is good, it's the execution that fails.

I've brought this little detail to the attention of a few "anti-discrimination general managers", when I've had the chance.

Sadly, some employees take it to mean "I can discriminate against anybody so long as it's not for the reasons directly specified in US anti-discrimination legislation". So for example, because the legislation says you can't discriminate for reason of national origin, they're perfectly happy to discriminate by reason of nationality in situations where it's not warranted at all... Again, this is a problem of execution, but the intent of the people above those idiots is usually good.

Nava
01-08-2007, 07:01 AM
Rusalka, computer animation is computer industry. Which is lacking skirts, in general. I've been to mass interviews for IT companies where the room included 6 females (two of whom already worked for the hiring company, in HR) out of 200 total. Two friends of mine (one guy, one girl) work in the IT department of a bank; she's the only female in the whole department. She was also the only female in her graduating class in college. This may be more extreme in Spain than in other countries, but my experience from when I taught in the States was that you were very unlikely to see girls heading into the CS building.

One of the themes that crop up frequently in American Chemical Society's weekly journal is "how can we get more girls, hispanics, blacks, interested in Chemistry and associated sciences".

RealityChuck
01-08-2007, 08:41 AM
The thing that gets me is that AA has a bad rep., and it seems from the answers here it doesn't even really give any advantage to anyone. So there's been a lot of fuss for nothing? What good does recruiting do, if there aren't enough women in a field, and the women in the field never get a chance to get experience because of entrenched attitudes?It removes one factor that made for an unfair playing field. Prior to AA, a woman applying to these jobs might have been passed over as soon as they realized she was a woman. Any organization is looking for ways to eliminate resumes, so if you discriminate on the basis of race or sex, it makes the job of finding a candidate easier, since you have fewer applications to go over. AA is an attempt to make sure that candidates aren't disqualified based on factors that have no relevance to the job, and which the candidate has no control over.

If there aren't a lot of women in the field, that's fine, but if the reason there aren't any women in the field is that they automatically get ignored when they apply, then there is a problem.

Also, don't buy into the myth that people are hired on merit alone. The #1 factor in choosing one person over another in hiring decisions is how much the interviewer likes the candidate (if merit was the sole criteria, there'd be no need for interviews: the resume would cover everything). Obviously, if the interviewer thinks women are only good for staying home and cooking dinner, he's not going to hire women -- no matter how qualified they are. AA's purpose is to get him thinking that a qualified woman should be given equal consideration. It's not a perfect system, but it's better for both the comapany and society as a whole than leaving hiring decisions to the prejudices of those doing the hiring interview.

Don26
01-08-2007, 08:49 AM
"An Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer" does this MEAN anything?
anecdotally, it means they will bend over backwards to only discriminate against White Conservative Men

gigi
01-08-2007, 09:51 AM
In my experience in searches for our institution, we had to prove that we were advertising in a wide enough range to give a diversity of people a chance to apply. Our region is mostly white, so advertising nationwide and at historically black institutions was the standard. When candidates' materials were evaluated, we were to make a guess as to the ethnicity and sex of the candidate, and make an effort to consider the non-white candidate who was equal to a white candidate. As mentioned, they were never equal and the decision was made to try to hire the best candidate.

They also do an annual optional survey as to sex and ethnicity. And our hiring forms have an optional space for this info.

anecdotally, it means they will bend over backwards to only discriminate against White Conservative MenHmm. I used to think there was diversity until I rode the train downtown to Wall Street with all those well-scrubbed white men and wasn't sure things have changed very much. Just an anecdote.

Epimetheus
01-08-2007, 10:37 AM
I'm doing a work study this semester running queries and compiling data for the Universities HR departments AAP report, so I thought I would chime in with my understanding of what AA is.

The University gets data from the census on the diversity of its hiring areas. Zip codes or counties. If it says 16% is black, 50% is white, 18% is Hispanic, etc, the percentages in each department should be representative of that. In other words, it isn't there should be equal numbers, but that the percentages in a company should be representative of the hiring population.

We keep track of all applicants, and track how many of each ethnicity apply, how many we hire, and what our goals are for the next year in hiring. Sometimes it is more difficult when you have a job listing to get a representative number of applicants. The University uses all the information it gathers to judge in how long to keep a job posting open and what magazines or other medium to post the jobs.

That is my understanding of AA, based on the work I do as an IT work study student in a HR department. People that aren't qualified don't get hired regardless of ethnicity, and I don't think it is fair to say that if both a black and white person apply, the black is definitely going to get the job. perhaps the department is low in Hispanics, or females, and if the man is black and the female is white, and there is a shortage of females, it is likely she will get the job. Unless the male is more qualified. A lot gets weighed in choosing an applicant.

Nanoda
01-08-2007, 11:52 AM
What Nava said. As a CS student, I recall I once counted the proportion of females in the class. Of about 30 or more of us, only 2 or 3 were of the non-male persuasion. That was the same day we introduced ourselves briefly, and all the women were taking CS as a second degree, meaning they weren't even really planning on CS as a career option.

I assure you we would not have discouraged female participation in CS. (Quite the opposite in fact). But if the ladies don't wanna join, they're not gonna join. :(

Satchmo
01-09-2007, 01:56 PM
One further anecdote, when we hire for entry level computer operator positions, (the only position I've ever been involved on the hiring committee), we always have a woman on the committee, just to help any woman applicants feel a little more at ease during the interview. I believe we did this to help remove barriers like they were talking about above, though we really had very few female applicants.

Rusalka
01-16-2007, 07:50 AM
Just as an aside, most people in the animation field are NOT computer geeks first - they are artists first, and then they learn computers as part of their job - same as, say, an administrative assistant. With that in mind, the disparity is a bit baffling.

I read a book once on the making of Antz, and apparently few of the animation artists had touched a graphic arts program or even a computer before signing onto the movie.

I probably should start another thread for this topic.

I once applied for a job in a computer store as a computer technician, and although they needed technicians, they wanted me to teach classes instead. It wasn't where my experience or interests lay. I wonder how many of those AA statistics take into account the "types" of jobs women are doing...

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