Diversity & Affirmative Action in the Workplace: 6 Tips to Stay Compliant

Renee Larsen
Posted: 08/29/2011

Federal contractors and supply & service companies are required to abide by affirmative action and EEO compliance requirements. The concepts of diversity and affirmative action are often confused with each other, but there are substantial differences between both. Although equal employment opportunity, diversity, and affirmative action are all different, they are interrelated. Each is directed to achieving equal opportunity in the workplace. Diversity and affirmative action each broaden the concept of equal employment opportunity in different ways. Together, diversity, equal employment opportunity and affirmative action provide a strong foundation for the company’s efforts to achieve a fair and inclusive workplace.

Educating managers and staff on how to work effectively in a diverse environment helps prevent discrimination and promotes inclusiveness. Effectively managing diversity in the workplace can contribute to increased staff retention and productivity. It can also improve the organization’s ability to cope with changes and promote innovation within the organization.

The term "affirmative action" was initially used in Executive Order No. 10925 signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, regarding the treatment of employees without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin. The Executive Order was superseded by Executive Order 11246 in 1965. The Order was also expanded by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967 to also include women. The most current version of affirmative action compliance for federal / federally assisted construction contractors is referenced under Executive Order 11246. Affirmative action is based on legal directives requiring federal contractors to measure employment practices and to develop a workforce that is reflective of the community in which they work.

Resulting from historic discriminatory practices the requirement to have an affirmative action policy and plan was designed to ensure that federal contractors made good faith efforts towards recruiting, hiring, training and promoting qualified minorities, women, the disabled and veterans. Affirmative action consists of laws, regulations and agencies that were designed to remedy inequities and are limited to addressing discrimination against such groups such as women. minorities, the disabled and veterans.

Diversity is a more inclusive concept and includes people of various religions, marital status, sexual orientation, economic status and a variety of other different states of being. Diversity is also considered a strategic business practice which continues to increase as distinctions among people in the workplace become more prevalent.

Diversity and affirmative action deal with issues related to discrimination, but in different ways. They are complementary in function, but different in their origins and goals. While affirmative action focuses on taking positive steps to get individuals into the organization, diversity in the workplace works to change the culture within.

Here are some ways to implement these best practices in any organization and remain compliant with OFCCP requirements simultaneously:

  1. Educate management and your employees and encourage diversity applicant referrals.
  2. Educate all employees on the company’s EEO policy annually and have an appointed contact to handle EEO and discrimination claims and/or issues within the organization. Annually have voluntary EEO Affirmative Action forms distributed for anyone who wishes to self identify if they did not initially or revise their status if interested in doing so and letting employees know there is no adverse treatment whether the information is provided or not.
  3. Continuously expand diversity recruitment resources, maintain an active database and build professional business relationships with those resources. Local veteran halls, minority and female groups, military organizations and disability resources should be normal business practice for maintaining and expanding diversity recruitment resources.
  4. Be sure to keep organized records for auditing purposes.
  5. For recruitment, compiling a folder for each open opportunity that contains: a position requisition form, job description, all job advertisements placed, applicant flow logs to show who has applied and their EEO information, all resumes and applications received as well as all correspondence between HR/EEO and the hiring manager, other recruitment resources and interview notes. In creating this recruitment folder it’s a one-stop- shop for all positions being recruited and easy access to provide to auditors if requested.
  6. Be sure to take advantage of all free resources, such as webinars, offered on diversity, VEVRRA/4212, disabilities and regulatory updates is beneficial. Staying apprised of all pending laws and regulations is imperative to maintaining compliance.


In implementing these best practices and regulatory requirements, I have found it not only has helped to expand diversity within the organization yet it keeps the company in compliance for all local, Federal and State enforcement agencies.

Renee Larsen
Posted: 08/29/2011

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